In most cases, adults don’t need to take antibiotics for a toothache, according to new guidelines from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Even though patients with toothaches are often prescribed antibiotics to help ease symptoms and prevent worsening of the problem, healthy adults should generally have dental treatment instead of antibiotics, according to the ADA guidance published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
“Antibiotics should not be used until an infection progresses enough that it can no longer be treated with only dental treatment like a nonsurgical root canal,” said Peter Lockhart, chair of the ADA expert panel that developed the guidelines and a research professor at Carolinas Medical Center - Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Signs and symptoms of this progression include fever, swollen lymph nodes, facial swelling and extreme tiredness.”
These recommendations apply to healthy adults, and are not intended to stop antibiotic use altogether, according to the ADA guidelines. The intent is to minimise overuse and the rise of more antibiotic-resistant infections by limiting antibiotic use to cases when these drugs are absolutely necessary. Dental pain and swelling are the most common reason that patients go to the emergency room or doctor’s office for oral health problems, according to the ADA. Patients may have occasional sharp pain and a fever, or they might experience constant dull or severe pain.
General and specialty dentists are the third highest prescribers of antibiotics in all outpatient settings in the United States, according to the ADA.