Antibiotics, discovered in 1928, have saved millions of people from untimely deaths due to bacterial infections. In fact, a life expectancy jump of eight years between the mid-1940s and early 1970s is credited to the introduction of antibiotics.
This “wonder drug”, however, has resulted in resistance as new strains of disease have surfaced. While, on one hand, it’s a great medication to use when infection is present, on the other it’s hard to know when it’s warranted to ward off potential infection in high-risk situations.
Everyone has bacteria in our mouths, and some dental treatments can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. For the majority of patients, this isn’t a problem as a healthy immune system stops the bacteria from causing harm. In a small number of cases, we may suggest antibiotics before a dental treatment to reduce the chance of infection.
While guidelines have altered over the years, medical associations (including the American Dental Association and American Heart Association) have worked to define when taking a precautionary antibiotic before a dentist visit is warranted. While patients should ensure they are heeding the latest guidelines, current recommendations state:
- Patients with certain heart conditions may be at an increased risk of infection and should consider taking antibiotics before dental work. These heart conditions include those with artificial heart valves, infective endocarditis, a heart transplant, and some congenital heart diseases. Patients should consult their physician and dentist to determine whether antibiotics are needed.
- In general, patients who have had hip, knee or joint replacement surgery, are not recommended to take an antibiotic before a dental procedure. Joint replacement surgery patients with a history of complications should, however, talk to their surgeon and dentist to see if an antibiotic is recommended in their particular case.
Whether taking antibiotics is necessary before a visit to the dentist, there are two other key aspects that all patients should understand when looking after their dental health.
Alert Us of Health Changes
Do you recall completing a health questionnaire or answering questions about your health when you first visited the dentist? While we certainly care about your wellbeing and how you are feeling, it’s critical to the dental care we provide that we fully understand if there have been any changes in your health since your last visit.
Perhaps a health issue has cropped up, or you have been prescribed a new medication? Alerting us to any changes in your health will help us best advise you on your oral health needs or whether considering an antibiotic is appropriate. Please keep us up to date on how your health is doing – we care!
Good Oral Health Practices
As with most anything, prevention is key to avoid any problems or risk of infection. Be sure to keep up with your good practices at home: brush twice each day with fluoride toothpaste and floss regularly. Also, avoid sweets and soda and eat a balanced diet. Visit us regularly so we can help you maintain your oral health. These are the simplest and most effective ways to ensure you are enjoying stellar oral health!