Happy Monday, Streamwood Smiles family! Dr. Schneider and I are happy to announce that we will be creating blog posts to address some of our most commonly asked dental questions, as well as keep you all up-to-date with the most recent advances in dentistry.
In today's post, I'll be addressing a topic that most patients encounter at least once in their dental lives: the use of antibiotics in dentistry. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed throughout the medical and dental world; I would be willing to bet that everyone reading this post has been prescribed an antibiotic in their lives. They have been an incredibly important advance in medicine, and access to antibiotics is one of the most prominent reasons that life expectancy has increased in developed nations.
However as the rate of antibiotic prescription increased, so did our knowledge of some of the drawbacks to using these "superdrugs" to treat every small infection. One of these drawbacks is a concept called antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is the concept that the bacteria we are fighting with our antibiotics are living organisms, too. Bacteria are subject to all of nature's rules for living things, including that of natural selection. Antibiotics kill off the bacteria that are too weak to fight them off; in most cases, all of them. However, there are certain situations where a bacterium has adapted to be resistant to a certain antibiotic or family of antibiotics. In these situations, these bacteria continue to live when presented with an antibiotic, multiply, and the infection is not treated effectively. Sometimes these antibiotic resistant infections can have deadly consequences.
Another potential risk to over-prescribing antibiotics are superbug infections, such as infection with Clostridium difficile, known as C diff for short in the medical community. According to Dentistry Today: “Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal system. Wiping out protective bacteria can allow the growth of C diff, leading to severe and potentially deadly diarrhea.” Taking even one course of antibiotics can cause infection with C diff or other bacterial Superbugs, including the commonly prescribed antibiotic clindamycin.
While these facts about antibiotics can be frightening, there are still situations in which antibiotic prescription is warranted in the dental office. For example, if your dentist sees an abscess (an area of infection associated with a tooth), then he/she will likely prescribe an antibiotic. The key to preventing the negative consequences of over-prescription of antibiotics is patient and doctor education. At Streamwood Smiles, we are committed to arming ourselves with the most up-to-date information and recommendations regarding antibiotic prescription as well as to continue to educate our patients with this information. Understanding that antibiotics are not the answer for all dental situations, and that your dentists are educated to prescribe antibiotics only when necessary, will help you to own your dental health in the future.
We appreciate your commitment to your dental health, and look forward to seeing you soon!
- Dr. Caitlin Wehrle, DMD