Do I Need Antibiotics for a Tooth Infection?

Learn about the types of antibiotics used to treat dental infections and over-the-counter options for pain relief. Understand how dentists prescribe antibiotics for treatment and prevention of infections and how they consider antibiotic resistance when prescribing.

Do I Need Antibiotics for a Tooth Infection?

Your dentist will likely prescribe an antibiotic to help kill bacteria that cause tooth infection. But, when it comes to toothaches, antibiotics should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Read on to learn more about the types of antibiotics used to treat dental infections, over-the-counter options for pain relief, and how to talk to your dentist about what is causing your pain and how to fix it. Indications for the use of systemic antibiotics in dentistry are limited, since most dental and periodontal diseases are best managed through surgical intervention and oral hygiene measures.

However, the literature provides evidence of inadequate prescribing practices by dentists, due to a range of factors ranging from inadequate knowledge to social factors. For dental infections, dentists often prescribe penicillin or amoxicillin, says Merck Manuals. Clindamycin is also a commonly prescribed alternative for people who are allergic to penicillin. Your dentist will be sure to identify the correct dosage and duration of medication for your particular situation.

Because over-prescribing antibiotics can sometimes result in more resistant strains of bacteria, your dentist will also consider antibiotic resistance when prescribing the dose, as explained by the ADA. A dentist can also give antibiotics to patients with compromised immune systems because they are usually at increased risk of infection. Data reported from different countries indicate differences in dentists' knowledge of clinical situations indicated for antibiotics. Almost half or more of dentists investigated in England, Kuwait, and Turkey would prescribe dry socket. These infections don't go away on their own, so it's important to see your dentist if you think you have one. Your dentist may also give you antibiotics to make sure the infection doesn't spread to other teeth or other parts of your body.

After all, patient safety is always a priority. These references were reviewed to evaluate dentists' therapeutic and prophylactic antibiotic prescribing practices, focusing on antibiotic indications, type of antibiotic prescribed, and duration of prescription. To eliminate any possible confusion about whether you'll need treatment with antibiotics, when you visit a dentist for any dental procedure, whether it's dental implant placement or any other type of treatment, he or she will first evaluate your general and oral health. The American Dental Association recommends that dentists treat abscesses and other causes of dental pain with proper dental procedures and pain relievers, not antibiotics. By understanding antibiotics, you can confidently talk with your dentist about what is causing your pain and how to fix it. Most oral diseases presented to the dentist are mainly inflammatory conditions that are associated with pain.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 42% of Americans want to visit their dentist more often. He teaches full time as an associate clinical professor at his alma mater, the New York University School of Dentistry, is a graduate of the American Board of Orthodontics and serves on the advisory boards of the American Dental Education Association. Recommendations are presented to improve antibiotic prescribing practices in an attempt to curb the increasing incidence of antibiotic resistance and other side effects of antibiotic abuse.