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What You Should Know About Antibiotics at the Dentist Office

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Antibiotics play an important role in helping the body fight off infection. In dental care, antibiotics might be prescribed before, during, or after a procedure depending on the situation. Whether you are currently on antibiotics for health issues or suspect you may need an antibiotic, it is important to have a conversation with your dentist. Here’s what should you know about antibiotics at the dentist’s office.

Antibiotics Before A Dental Exam

Our body’s organs, tissues, nerves, and bloodstream are all intertwined, working together. This connectedness means that one event or one health issue can affect or cause another health issue. Bacteria travel through the bloodstream thus individuals with compromised immune systems must be particularly diligent prior to any kind of physical, dental, or other health exams.

Persons with heart conditions, organ transplants or severe illness may need an antibiotic prior to a dental procedure to proactively prevent the spread of bacteria through the bloodstream. For patients with heart conditions, the antibiotics are given to prevent the occurrence of a dangerous condition called infective endocarditis. However, the current guidelines actually advise antibiotic prophylaxis for a small group of cardiac patients, those with the highest risk for developing infective endocarditis.

Joint replacement patients including knee replacement are often advised by their surgeon to avoid any type of dental treatment for 8 – 12 weeks to reduce the chance of blood-borne bacteria from infecting the new prosthesis. American Dental Association guidelines state “In general, for patients with prosthetic joint implants, prophylactic antibiotics are not recommended prior to dental procedures to prevent prosthetic joint infection.” Patients who have a history of complications or are deemed at risk by the dentist should obtain a consult with the orthopedic surgeon who can further discuss the need for preventative antibiotics.

If you have health issues or recently underwent surgery, it is important to tell your dentist before your appointment.

Antibiotics After A Dental Treatment

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed after dental treatments to help the body heal. Root canals are a common dental procedure in which an antibiotic is sometimes part of the post-treatment plan. A root canal occurs when the pulp of our tooth becomes infected. The pulp is the soft area within the center of our tooth where the nerves and blood vessels are located. A root canal is needed to save the damaged tooth and to prevent the infection from spreading. An antibiotic is prescribed following the procedure to kill the remaining bacteria and to aid the mouth in healing.

While a root canal may sound painful, the long-term damage caused by avoiding treatment can lead to gum disease and loss of the original tooth. If you experience constant throbbing pain in your mouth, schedule an appointment.

Sometimes, antibiotics are prescribed after other dental procedures and the decision to prescribe these medications is based on the type of dental procedure, the biologic material used, the severity of certain conditions and other factors. This is best discussed with your dentist who should provide you with a rationale for the use of antibiotics.

Antibiotics for An Infection

We catch colds, come down with the flu, get a sinus infection. Similar to the rest of our bodies, our mouths can also develop an infection. Antibiotics may be prescribed for infection or inflammatory conditions such as a periodontal abscess, infected tooth, and peri-implant disease, among other things. After the dentist has made a diagnosis an antibiotic is prescribed. Left untreated, infections in the mouth can travel through the body affecting other areas.

If you are 1 of the nearly 30 million people in the U.S. who experience some form of dental anxiety, your initial thought may be to wait-out an infection hoping it goes away. You may try other at-home remedies such as a standard dose of acetaminophen.  In dentistry, DIY does not really work and can be dangerous. Avoiding treatment may cause the infection to progress with the bacteria traveling systemically. In extreme cases, this unchecked infection can cause life-threatening illnesses where the infection spreads throughout the body.

If you are experiencing throbbing in your mouth, sharp pains, sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, call your dentist to discuss treatment options. Keep potential issues at bay with twice-yearly checkups to ensure the health of your mouth above and below the gumline.

Imperial Dental Center your overall health and wellness is our top priority. Contact us today to discuss your dental health concerns.

Dr. Dragana Angelova

Imperial Dental Center

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