When are Antibiotics Necessary for Dental Problems?

Dentists routinely prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. However, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), not every dental problem, including toothaches, require antibiotic treatment. So, when are antibiotics required in dental treatment, and who is a suitable candidate? We explain in this article. 

Dental Treatment and Antibiotic Therapy

Dentists typically prescribe antibiotics either before performing a dental procedure or after treatment has been completed. 

Antibiotics Before Treatment 

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), antibiotics may be recommended before treatment – also called the prophylactic antibiotics – in the following conditions:

  • Weak Immunity – individuals who have a decreased ability to fight infection, either because of HIV infection or ongoing cancer chemotherapy or radiotherapy or those suffering from autoimmune disease, require antibiotic prophylaxis before treatment. 
  • Cardiac Conditions – those suffering from heart conditions may require prophylactic antibiotic treatment if they have:
    • Artificial valves 
    • History of infective endocarditis – a condition in which there is inflammation of the inner lining of the heart
    • Certain congenital heart problems
    • A cardiac transplant that develops infection afterward. 
  • Severe Infection – your dentist may also prescribe prophylactic antibiotics if he or she feels that you have a severe infection that must subside before he or she can perform the treatment. 

Antibiotic Prescriptions Following Dental Treatment 

  • Oral Wounds – antibiotics may be required for open oral wounds where there is a chance that the bacteria could potentially get into the bloodstream.
  • Pulpal or Periodontal Inflammation – typically, a localized inflammation of the pulp or the periodontal tissues. Pulpal inflammation is usually treated with a root canal procedure. Periodontal inflammation is generally treated with a dental deep cleaning. However, if either of these issues includes systemic symptoms like fever, swelling, etc., your dentist may prescribe antibiotics. 
  • Orofacial Trauma – specific dentofacial injuries may require antibiotics.
  • Facial Swellings – individuals who have facial swellings due to underlying dental conditions, such as cellulitis, or a dental abscess, or cysts, may also require antibiotics. 
  • Salivary Gland Infections – salivary gland infections caused by caused by bacteria often need antibiotic treatment. 

If possible, your dentists will treat your dental problems without antibiotics to prevent the excessive or unnecessary use of antibiotics – which can lead to antibiotic resistance. 

If you have any swelling or inflammation, you should consult your dentist immediately. We offer emergency and same-day appointments at 773-481-2200.