Do you believe me if I say, “there are trillions of tiny bacteria around and even inside your mouth”? It’s true because they live everywhere, from freezing ice to the bubbling hot lava. Bacteria are microscopic, so they cannot be seen from your naked eyes. Though they have only a single cell, their total biomass is greater than all plants and animals combined. An individual human has ten times more bacterial cells than his human cells. Many of these bacteria are harmless, or some of them are even beneficial, blocking the harmful bacteria from entering your body, helping to digest, and immunity. However, there are a few harmful bacteria that can cause minor damage or even death. Dental infections caused by these harmful bacteria can even be fatal sometimes. Fortunately, there are medicines to control bacterial infections, Antibiotics.

Your dentist may prescribe you some antibiotics as a preventive measure to avoid any dental infection from developing. For an instance after a dental procedure, the dental team will give you an antibiotic regime to prevent a post-operative infection especially, if you are an immunocompromised person.

As well, a dentist might give you antibiotics to prevent the progression of an ongoing dental infection too.

Different antibiotics have different mechanisms of action. Somehow all of them will either kill bacteria or interrupt bacterial effects by blocking their growth and multiplication.

What are the most common antibiotics used for dental infections?

1. Class of Penicillin

Most dentists use antibiotics in the penicillin group as the antibiotic of choice. Amoxicillin is the most used penicillin class drug which acts against a lot of harmful bacteria in the mouth. 500mg of Amoxicillin, three times per day (every eight hours) for three to five days will be enough to prevent dental infections.

Augmentin is a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid which can tackle even more bacteria than amoxicillin alone does. 625mg of Augmentin, three times per day for three to five days will do the job.

2. Clindamycin

Since the studies show that a lot of people develop antibiotic resistance to penicillin class drugs, using Clindamycin as the first antibiotic of choice is better now. Moreover, Clindamycin covers a wider range of disease-causing bacteria. Depending on the situation 300mg or 500mg of Clindamycin three times per day will be prescribed as the effective dosage.

3. Azithromycin

Azithromycin is the go-to antibiotic when the dentists encounter a patient with a Penicillin allergy, or when a patient doesn’t respond to Clindamycin. Azithromycin is also a broad-spectrum antibiotic with the ability to tackle a wide variety of bacteria.

500mg of Azithromycin once a day for three consecutive days is the normal dosage for a dental infection.

4. Metronidazole

Metronidazole which is sold under the brand name of Flagyl will be used to prevent the damage caused by anaerobic bacteria. 500-750mg of the drug three times per day is the normal dosage. However, studies show that Metronidazole can cause serious effects on some people so in the following incidents dentists don’t prescribe Metronidazole.

  • Pregnant women since it can cause damage fetus leading to birth defects.
  • Breast feeding mothers as the drug can be delivered to the baby through breast milk causing complications.
  • People who take alcohol since the drug reacts with alcohol and causes withdrawal symptoms.

What are the side effects of antibiotics?

Some of the common side effects of antibiotics are,

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Candida yeast infection
  • Rash

Sometimes antibiotics can cause deadly anaphylactic allergic reactions where the person finds it difficult to breathe in the worst possible scenario.

How long should you take antibiotics?

It’s essential that you take the antibiotics till the day the regime ends. Even though you feel well within two or three days after taking antibiotics you must take them for the recommended time. Unless the hidden potential bacteria will start the process again to make you sick.

Even though it’s true that antibiotics play a major role in the prevention of infections, we should keep in mind that antibiotics are not the first choice of treating dental infections.

Therefore, dentists always think twice when they choose the first step in the treatment. May be

  • Draining the swelling (abscess) which is in the affected site
  • A simple filling
  • A root canal treatment or
  • Extraction of the tooth alone might give you a sufficient remedy.

Why a couple of antibiotics cannot be the treatment always?

Today more and more antibiotics are becoming less effective. The problem is not with the antibiotics but with the bacteria. When someone uses antibiotics unnecessarily, individual bacteria can undergo random mutations that are useless or, unfortunately, harmful. While antibiotics kill the non-resistant bacteria, the resistant bacteria remain safe and pass on the mutated genes that helped them survive into other bacteria. Thus, antibiotic resistance occurs when an infection responds poorly to an antibiotic that once could treat it successfully. Also, we have to keep in mind that it’s the bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics, not the patient.

Therefore, antibiotics are only a part of the treatment plan.

What is the best antibiotic for dental infections?

There is no one specific antibiotic that is best for treating a tooth infection. The choice of antibiotic always depends on the type of bacteria which is causing the infection.

However, since it might take some time to identify the specific bacteria dentists always tend to give a broad-spectrum antibiotic to tackle the most common bacteria which can cause a dental infection. Dentists will often choose amoxicillin as the first-line antibiotic.

Do home remedies work against infection-causing bacteria?

Of course, yes. Proper home remedies sure can control the bacteria to some extent and will reduce the need of antibiotics in the long run.

  • Gently rinsing the mouth with warm saltwater will prevent bacteria from growing.
  • Chewing with the opposite side of the mouth to reduce additional injury to the affected area
  • Avoiding very sharp, hard-to-chew foods that may bump into the sensitive area or become stuck in the teeth causing even more injury to the affected site.

How to prevent dental infections?

There is no other better preventive measure than practicing good dental hygiene habits at home to prevent possible infections. So,

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste especially at night before bed for at least two minutes with the correct techniques is important.
  • Flossing your teeth once a day after brushing will keep the areas that cannot be cleaned with a toothbrush devoid of bacteria.
  • Brushing with a very soft toothbrush around the sensitive area will avoid unnecessary mechanical damage.
  • Seeing a dentist for regular checkups at least every six months may help prevent tooth infections and their complications.

Thus, antibiotics are important to control dental infections and we have to understand the limitations of using antibiotics to prevent any complications.

DISCLAIMER: The advice offered is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. It is in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.