Antibiotic Use in Dentistry

There may be times when you are prescribed antibiotics by your dentist. There are various reasons for this, all depending on your specific circumstances and the type of dental work you are having done. In this blog post we will discuss some of the reasons why your dentist may prescribe you antibiotics, the risks and benefits of taking dental antibiotics, and potential alternatives.


When Are Antibiotics Required?

Antibiotics are drugs used to fight infections in the body. In the case of dental care, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent a post-operative infection, such as bacteraemia. Bacteraemia is characterized by bacteria present in the blood, which can sometimes cause disease. Certain dental treatments, including tooth extractions and cleanings, can cause bacteraemia, which can occasionally develop into infective endocarditis if the bacteria reaches the cardiac tissue.

Your dentist may also prescribe you antibiotics if you develop a tooth abscess, which is caused by a bacterial infection creating a collection of pus in the pulp of your tooth. This can be very painful and may cause fever and swelling.


Infective Endocarditis

Infective endocarditis is an infection that affects the heart’s inner endothelium lining or the heart valves. Since 2007, the Canadian Dental Association has supported the American Heart Association’s guidelines concerning antibiotic use before dental procedures to prevent infective endocarditis. These guidelines state that only those most at risk of developing infective endocarditis should receive short-term preventive antibiotics before common, routine dental and medical procedures.


Who is Most at Risk?

Patients with a weakened heart have a higher risk of contracting the infective endocarditis. According to the Canadian Dental Association’s website, those patients most at risk include those who have:

  1. prosthetic cardiac valve or prosthetic material used for cardiac valve repair
  2. a history of infective endocarditis
  3. certain specific, serious congenital (present from birth) heart conditions, including
    • unrepaired or incompletely repaired cyanotic congenital heart disease, including those with palliative shunts and conduits
    • a completely repaired congenital heart defect with prosthetic material or device, whether placed by surgery or by catheter intervention, during the first six months after the procedure
    • any repaired congenital heart defect with residual defect at the site or adjacent to the site of a prosthetic patch or a prosthetic device
  4. a cardiac transplant that develops a problem in a heart valve.


What are the Risks and Benefits of Taking Antibiotics?

As with the use of any antibiotics, potential risks are varied. Some risks could include the patient having an adverse reaction to the drugs, as well as the ever-increasing worry of antibiotic resistance. Your dentist will be able to discuss with you the benefits and risks of taking preventative antibiotics before you undergo any dental procedures.


If you are unsure whether or not your heart condition requires you to take preventative antibiotics before dental procedures, speak with your doctor or surgeon. Additionally, you should communicate your health history with your dentist, who will be able to advise you on the best course of action. At McAllister Dentistry, we want to provide all our of clients with the absolute best care to meet their needs. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us today!


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