There are a few situations where you might need to take antibiotics as part of dental treatment.
In this post, we explain when your dentist might recommend antibiotics and what you need to know about taking them.
Tooth infection or abscess
If you have a tooth infection or abscess, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics.
A tooth infection occurs when trauma or decay causes the tooth’s nerve to die. As a result, bacteria multiply at the site and can cause an infection.
Your dentist is likely to offer root canal treatment to save the tooth. Your dentist will remove the infected pulp inside the tooth and then clean and pack the space. You’ll then get a filling and a crown to protect the tooth.
In many cases, antibiotics won’t be necessary, as the treatment alone will clear up the infection. Although in some cases, they will be needed to complement the healing process — your dentist will be able to advise.
When a tooth infection goes untreated, this can lead to an abscess. This is when the infection spreads to the area between your jaw bone and tooth and a pocket of pus forms.
If you have an abscess, you may experience:
- Toothache or pain in your gum
- Red or swollen gum
- A lump in the gum
- Swollen face or jaw
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drink
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Problems opening your mouth and/or eating
- A high temperature
It’s important to see your dentist as soon as you recognise these signs. They will drain the abscess of pus and may either offer root canal treatment or extract the tooth if it can’t be saved.
For a dental abscess, treatment includes antibiotics to ensure that any infection is eradicated.
If you have gum disease, which is recognisable by red, swollen or bleeding gums, your dentist may use antibiotics as part of your treatment plan.
Know that treatment for gum disease takes many different forms. Your dentist may:
- Scale and polish your teeth to remove tartar (hardened plaque)
- Remove tartar from under the gums
- Prescribe antibiotic mouthwash or tablets
People with advanced gum disease (periodontitis) may be offered specialised surgery to stop the progress of the disease.
What about antibiotics before dental treatment?
Some people with certain heart conditions need to take antibiotics before dental treatment.
This applies to people who have:
- Artificial heart valves
- Heart transplant
- History of infective endocarditis (inflammation of the inner lining of the heart)
- Certain congenital heart issues
That’s because they may be more vulnerable to the bacteria that can enter the bloodstream during dental treatment.
Antibiotics before dental treatment may also be offered if you have had joint replacement, although this is less common.
If you have any of these health issues, talk to your dentist so they can prescribe you antibiotics before your treatment if necessary.
What you need to know about taking antibiotics
If you’re prescribed antibiotics as part of your treatment, remember:
- Never share your medication with someone else.
- Be aware of possible side effects, which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and yeast infections, and seek medical help if you feel unwell.
- Take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your dentist, even if your symptoms have improved.
Keeping your dental treatment safe and effective
Fortunately, most dental treatments can be carried out without the need to take antibiotics. But they’re recommended for some situations, such as abscess, and for people more vulnerable to infection.
If you’re concerned about a dental issue that may need antibiotics, come and see us at Opal Dental, your local dental surgery for the Te Atatu Peninsula and surrounding area.
You can book a check-up online or give us a call. Either way, we’ll be happy to see you and work out the safest and most effective treatment plan for your individual needs.