A tablet is a pharmaceutical dosage form. It comprises a mixture of active substances and excipients, usually in powder form, pressed or compacted from a powder into a solid dose. The excipients can include diluents, binders or granulating agents, glidants (flow aids) and lubricants to ensure efficient tabletting; disintegrants to promote tablet break-up in the digestive tract; sweeteners or flavours to enhance taste; and pigments to make the tablets visually attractive. A polymer coating is often applied to make the tablet smoother and easier to swallow, to control the release rate of the active ingredient, to make it more resistant to the environment (extending its shelf life), or to enhance the tablet's appearance.
The compressed tablet is the most popular dosage form in use today. About two-thirds of all prescriptions are dispensed as solid dosage forms, and half of these are compressed tablets. A tablet can be formulated to deliver an accurate dosage to a specific site; it is usually taken orally, but can be administered sublingually, buccally, rectally or intravaginally. The tablet is just one of the many forms that an oral drug can take such as syrups, elixirs, suspensions, and emulsions. Medicinal tablets were originally made in the shape of a disk of whatever color their components determined, but are now made in many shapes and colors to help distinguish different medicines. Tablets are often stamped with symbols, letters, and numbers, which enable them to be identified.
Sizes of tablets to be swallowed range from a few millimeters to about a centimeter. Some tablets are in the shape of capsules, and are called "caplets". Medicinal tablets and capsules are often called pills. This is technically incorrect, since tablets are made by compression, whereas pills are ancient solid dose forms prepared by rolling a soft mass into a round shape. Other products are manufactured in the form of tablets which are designed to dissolve or disintegrate; e.g. cleaning and deodorizing products.