Antibiotic overuse is one of the most pressing issues in healthcare today. On top of the well-covered rise of MRSA infections, new strains of resistant bacteria are becoming more prevalent. With this in mind, clinicians around the world are working hard to cut back on antibiotic prescriptions and only use them when absolutely necessary. In the dental setting, many infections are not effected by antibiotics, and their use can potentially cause more harm than good.
Most bacterial diseases of the mouth are addressed by either removing the bacteria or the "food source" for the infection. For example, a root canal works by disinfecting the inside of the tooth, removing the dead/dying tissue, and sealing the nerve canal with a rubber material. By cutting off the infection source, the immune system can naturally eliminate the bacteria from your body. Research has shown that adding antibiotics to this treatment does not improve healing or decrease chances of re-infection. Likewise, deep cleanings to treat periodontitis work by removing tartar/ infected tissue and giving the body a clean surface to reattach the gums and teeth. Again, the typical patient will not benefit from an antibiotic prescription (though antimicrobial rinses may be used to work locally in the mouth).
Antibiotics are used in dentistry for instances of severe infection, pain and swelling that spreads away from the tooth. In these cases, the immune system may be "losing" its fight against the bacteria, and can benefit from some outside help. If you are prescribed antibiotics, take the entire bottle as directed, even if you start to feel better earlier. Finishing only part of a regimen puts you at risk for developing a new, stronger infection. For more information on dental infections, antibiotics and tooth pain, please give our office a call.