When should the dentist prescribe me antibiotics?
When you are in pain, you are desperate for a quick fix. You typically are looking for any medication or treatment that will alleviate the problem so you can function normally. With dental pain, it is common to think that an antibiotic will help solve the problem. There are times when it is right thing to do, but there are also circumstances where it could do you more harm than good.
Physicians and nurses commonly report that many request an antibiotic during cold and flu season. However, most of the problems are due to a virus and not a bacterial infection. Prescribing an antibiotic will not help fight the viral infection. There is a similar situation with dental pain. Many of the reasons that a tooth can be symptomatic are not from a bacterial origin. So taking an antibiotic will not alleviate the pain unless it can be concluded the problem is from a bacterial abscess. But if it is a tooth with this kind of abscess, then antibiotics are the drug of choice.
Another major reason dentists have cut back on prescribing antibiotics is from concern over developing a resistance to antibiotics. If you are taking antibiotics, the goal is to kill the undesired bacteria. However, certain bacteria will prove resistant to the drug and survive. The resistant bacteria will proliferate and will become more abundant. If a similar infection returns and antibiotics are needed, there is a concern the antibiotic will not be as affective.
So what are some other potential options when you are in dental pain? I typically recommend ibuprofen as the first line of defense. But if that isn’t strong enough to take the edge off, we may either prescribe a stronger pain medication or prescribe a type of steroid. The goal of the steroid is to reduce the pain by reducing the immune response to the affected tooth.
Each individual situation can be different or unique and just because an antibiotic worked previously doesn’t mean it is the ideal choice for your current situation. Have your dentist check the area and work with you to find the best course of action.