"In preparing for a dental procedure, such as a root canal, should I take any antibiotics?"
We're commonly asked this question, prompted by rising concerns over Antimicrobial Resistance. Ultimately, people want to ensure they only take antibiotics when completely necessary. Our aim is to answer this thoroughly, so you can feel better about your upcoming visit.
When are antibiotics prescribed?
Antibiotics are prescription-only drugs that treat infections or certain diseases. They attack the bacteria in your body that ultimately eliminates and prevents them from multiplying. In Dentistry, they're commonly prescribed in cases of periodontal disease (gum infection) and following major procedures.
Whether or not you need antibiotics before a procedure, like a tooth extraction or root canal, depends on your medical history. For most patients, it isn't necessary to take preventative antibiotics.
The American Heart Association (AHA) only recommends patients with a history of cardiac conditions take antibiotics for any dental procedures. Heart conditions make a person more susceptible to developing Infective endocarditis (IE), an infection caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and settle in the heart lining, a heart valve or a blood vessel.
Are antibiotics safe?
If taken correctly and only as-needed, antibiotics are completely safe.
However, issues can occur when patients are prescribed these drugs too frequently. The CDC estimates about 47 million antibiotic courses are prescribed for infections that don’t need antibiotics, like colds and the flu, in U.S. doctors’ offices and emergency departments each year.
In these cases, the body can adapt to the medication over time and ultimately become ineffective. Less commonly, taking them too often can cause side effects to intensify.
Rare but possible side effects to antibiotic medications include:
- Yeast infections
- Severe and life-threatening allergic reactions
Your dentist will assess your overall and oral health before advising if you need an antibiotic treatment before or after any surgical procedure. If you have a heart condition, please communicate with your cardiologist and dentist on their recommendation and what best suits you.