In certain Mott-insulating dimerized antiferromagnets, triplet excitations of the paramagnetic phase display both three-particle and four-particle interactions. When such a magnet undergoes a quantum phase transition into a magnetically ordered state, the three-particle interaction becomes part of the critical theory provided that the lattice ordering wave vector is zero. One microscopic example is the staggered-dimer antiferromagnet on the square lattice, for which deviations from O(3) universality have been reported in numerical studies. Using both symmetry arguments and microscopic calculations, we show that a nontrivial cubic term arises in the relevant order-parameter quantum field theory, and we assess its consequences using a combination of analytical and numerical methods. We also present finite-temperature quantum Monte Carlo data for the staggered-dimer antiferromagnet which complement recently published results. The data can be consistently interpreted in terms of critical exponents identical to that of the standard O(3) universality class, but with anomalously large corrections to scaling. We argue that the cubic interaction of critical triplons, although irrelevant in two spatial dimensions, is responsible for the leading corrections to scaling due to its small scaling dimension.