Dentists, like doctors, are medically qualified and authorised to prescribe drugs to treat conditions of the mouth. When it comes to infections, your dentist will use his or her discretion to prescribe an antibiotic for you, exactly like your GP would.
Now, a study has posed the question of whether the prescription of antibiotics to prevent infection during dental procedures is totally necessary; and whether most people may need antibiotics at all.
According to researcher, Jessina McGregor, an associate professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis, the study conducted by her and her colleagues found that antibiotics prescribed by dentists weren’t necessary 81% of the time.
She says that this is significant, because around 10% of all antibiotic prescriptions come from dentists. “Preventive antibiotics in these patients gave them risks that outweighed the benefits,” she says.
Recently, certain heart conditions and infections were directly linked to factors around poor oral hygiene. In these cases, dentists prescribed precautionary antibiotics to people who had known heart conditions. However, by using a national database, McGregor and her colleagues collected data on nearly 170,000 antibiotic prescriptions from dentists between 2011 and 2015. Prescriptions were for more than 90,000 patients. Although 90% of the patients had a procedure that might require an antibiotic, less than 21% had a heart condition that fell under that recommendation, US News reports.
This is not the only study that has highlighted the unnecessary use of antibiotics. In the last few years, many physicians have advocated against the overuse of antibiotics, as the drugs could have very negative, lasting side effects.
In extreme cases, overprescribing antibiotics can lead to resistant bacteria (bacteria that are harder to treat) that can cause more serious infections such as pneumococcal infections (pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and meningitis), skin infections and tuberculosis, explains Kids Health.