Are dental antibiotics for tooth infection always needed? Not necessarily. There are multiple ways to treat oral health problems, including root canals and fillings, or in the worst-case scenario, tooth extraction.
In some cases, however, antibiotics can save lives. But the key is to only take them when you need them and always follow your health practitioner's exact instructions.
Keep reading to find out more about:
- Who can and can't take certain antibiotics
- What the usual dosages are
- Why you might need antibiotics for dental infection
- How to stop antibiotic resistance
Table of contents
- 1 Common dental antibiotics
- 2 What antibiotic is used for tooth infection?
- 3 What is the best antibiotic for gum infection?
- 4 What is the best antibiotic for toothache?
- 5 Will I need antibiotics after oral surgery?
- 6 Antibiotic prophylaxis for dental work
- 7 Antibiotics for children
- 8 Dental antibiotic dosage
- 9 Antibiotic resistance
- 10 Conclusion
- 11 FAQs
Common dental antibiotics
There are a number of antibiotics used in dentistry to fight infection, and the type you need will depend on the bacteria that is causing your infection. The most common antibiotics used by dentists for tooth infections are from the penicillin family, including penicillin and amoxicillin.
Other dental antibiotics include metronidazole, Clindamycin, azithromycin, and erythromycin. These are not as common in dentistry for fighting bacterial infections as penicillin or amoxicillin; however, they may be used if the patient is allergic to antibiotics from the penicillin class.
What antibiotic is used for tooth infection?
We briefly mentioned some of the most common antibiotics used for tooth infection treatment. Now let's take a closer look.
Penicillin and amoxicillin
Penicillin is a class of antibiotics that includes penicillin and amoxicillin. According to the Mayo Clinic, the typical dosage for adults and children who weigh more than 88 pounds is 250–500 mg every eight hours, or 500–875 mg every 12 hours. The amount and frequency will depend on the type of infection you have and its location.
While antibiotics from the penicillin class are the most popular dental infection antibiotics, some people may have allergies, in which case another type of antibiotic will need to be selected. Another problem with drugs from the penicillin class is that they may not always be effective due to overuse, causing bacteria to become resistant.
In some cases, to aid the effectiveness of amoxicillin, doctors will prescribe clavulanic acid as well because it helps prevent bacteria from destroying the amoxicillin.
This antibiotic is another one that doctors use in the treatment of multiple types of infections. It isn't suitable for all patients and isn't usually the first choice, but it is sometimes prescribed to people who are allergic to penicillin.
This is a common antibiotic also used in the treatment of multiple bacterial infections. It is growing in popularity for dental infections because it is more affordable than other options and is widely available. There is also less of a risk that bacteria will be resistant to it, as it hasn't been used as often as penicillin.
This drug works by stopping the growth of bacteria, including in recurring infections, and is sometimes prescribed to patients who are allergic to penicillin.
Erythromycin is used to treat dental abscesses and is safe for children to take as well. It's not the most popular option, but for some patients, it may be the best antibiotic for infected tooth treatment.
What is the best antibiotic for tooth infection treatment?
In many cases, antibiotics from the penicillin class, including penicillin and amoxicillin, are the best antibiotics for tooth infection.
But that doesn't mean these are the right choices for everyone! In fact, antibiotics may not be what you need even If you have a tooth infection.
You should never take an antibiotic without a prescription from your dentist. Many people take antibiotics without a prescription, and this is leading to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. That means that some bacterial infections can no longer be treated with antibiotics…which is a scary thought!
Instead of antibiotics, your dentist may decide that the best course of action is to drain your abscess, perform a root canal, or in the worst-case scenario, remove the infected tooth.
That being said, you are more likely to receive antibiotics for a tooth infection when your infection is severe and spreading or if you are an individual with a weakened immune system.
The best antibiotic for a tooth infection will depend on the type of bacteria that is causing your infection and the location of your infection. That's because different classes of antibiotics work in different ways to fight bacteria. This is one of the reasons why it's essential to take the antibiotic in the correct dosage as prescribed by your dentist until you've finished your prescribed course of treatment. Your dentist or doctor will know which is the best drug to take for your infection.
How long does it take for antibiotics to work for a tooth infection?
You can start feeling the effects of antibiotics on a tooth infection in as little as a day. But just because your pain has gone away doesn't mean your infection is entirely cured! Your antibiotics won't completely take care of your tooth infection until you've taken them over a course of 7 to 10 days, always for the amount of time your dentist has prescribed.
It's extremely important that you take the entire amount of antibiotics that your dentist has prescribed you. If not, you could just make the bacteria more resistant to the antibiotics and your infection ultimately more difficult to treat.
How to get antibiotics for tooth infection
You can get antibiotics for a tooth infection from your dentist or doctor, although your dentist may be preferable due to their experience with tooth infections. Antibiotics are not available over the counter; you must have a doctor's prescription. If you have antibiotics leftover in your medicine cabinet from an old infection, you should not use them. To properly dispose of your antibiotics, take them to your nearest pharmacy.
What is the best antibiotic for gum infection?
A gum infection, or periodontitis, left untreated can lead to all sorts of problems such as adult tooth loss, soft tissue damage, and a weakening of your jaw bone. In extreme cases, like with acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG), it may be treated with antibiotics like amoxicillin, erythromycin, or tetracycline. Metronidazole is another option if the patient is allergic to penicillin.
What is the best antibiotic for toothache?
A toothache caused by infection can be treated in various ways, depending on the severity, location, and general health of the patient. In cases of severe infections that can't be treated by root canal or tooth extraction alone, your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic, usually amoxicillin, or metronidazole in the case of a penicillin allergy.
Can you take doxycycline for toothache?
Doxycycline is part of the tetracycline class of antibiotics. It isn't typically a first-choice antibiotic; rather, it is reserved for more serious infections.
Therefore, doxycycline should only be taken for a toothache if that toothache is caused by a severe infection and your dentist has prescribed it to you.
Doxycycline can also be used to help prevent the breakdown of gum tissue and to help with the reduction in gum pockets in patients who have gum disease. At this dosage, however, it won't treat bacterial infections.
Doxycycline for tooth infection is not recommended in children under 12, as antibiotics from the tetracycline class can cause permanent tooth staining in children. It's also not suitable for pregnant women.
Will I need antibiotics after oral surgery?
Most people don't need antibiotics after oral surgery. There are some cases when your dentist may recommend them—for example, if you have some heart conditions, cirrhosis of the liver, a history of infective endocarditis, or a weakened immune system.
Antibiotic prophylaxis for dental work
Your dentist may prescribe you prophylactic antibiotics for dental work or before the treatment of your dental infection; this is antibiotic prophylaxis. The reason for prescribing antibiotics prior to dental work is that during certain dental treatments the bacteria that reside in your mouth may enter the bloodstream.
Who needs antibiotics before dental work?
In most patients, this isn't a problem, as immune systems are normally more than capable of handling these bacteria. However, there are some people who may need antibiotics after oral surgery, like those have had or have:
- Heart conditions, including congenital heart defects and disease
- An artificial heart valve
- A heart transplant
- Knee or hip replacement surgery
- Infective endocarditis
Always make sure to disclose your full medical history with your doctor before surgery or dental work, even if you think it's not relevant, so they know if they need to prescribe you antibiotics before or after dental work.
Antibiotics for children
Antibiotics are safe to give your children as long as you follow the instructions of your pediatric dentist and administer your child's antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Let's have a look at some of the general guidelines as stated by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Facial swelling with infection
For children with dental infections, antibiotics from the penicillin class are the most popular choice, but your dentist may decide that additional supplemental antibiotics such as metronidazole can be taken if the the infection is caused by anaerobic bacteria—bacteria that don't require oxygen and are most commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract.
Dental trauma and infection
If your older child's teeth become dislodged due to trauma, the dentist may prescribe tetracycline. However, tetracycline can cause permanent tooth discoloring when a child's dentin is still being formed, so children under 12 will be prescribed something else in most cases, like penicillin V or amoxicillin. Topical antibiotics may also be used to help with gum healing.
Children with aggressive periodontal disease may be prescribed antibiotics as a supplement to localized treatments.
Dental antibiotic dosage
Take the dosage that your doctor prescribes at the intervals prescribed. You can see some of the common dosages for antibiotics for some different oral health conditions and infections in the tables below. However, these should not replace the instructions given to you by your doctor.
Tooth infection antibiotics dosage
Tooth abscess antibiotics dosage
A dental abscess won't go away on its own, so it's crucial to seek professional help if you think you may have one. Your dentist may prescribe you an antibiotic for tooth abscess treatment if the infection has spread to nearby teeth, your jaw, or other areas.
Dosage for gum infection
Bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics, resulting in ineffective treatment. This is a growing problem with the ongoing usage of antibiotics and because antibiotics are too-often overprescribed.
The most common antibiotics prescribed by dentists are amoxicillin, penicillin, and metronidazole, and these are the ones with the most potential for bacterial resistance.
When bacteria become resistant, this resistance can spread to other germs and create more drug-resistant infections that are even harder to treat.
How to prevent antibiotic resistance
Dentists have been found to frequently prescribe antibiotics to their patients, even for diseases that can't be treated with antibiotics. To stop the spread of drug-resistant bacterial strains, dentists should only prescribe antibiotics to control known local infections, and not just when some inflammation is visible. Additionally, prophylactic use should be limited and only in cases when there are infections.
Patients also have a role to play to stop antibiotic resistance. A couple of things patients should do include:
- Ask questions: Ask your dentist or doctor about the antibiotics they are giving you and why they are giving them to you for your treatment.
- Don't demand antibiotics: Never demand antibiotics from your doctor if they say they aren't necessary.
- Don't use old antibiotics: Don't share or use old or leftover antibiotics; only take them when prescribed by your doctor.
In the video below, Dr. Tamisha Denis talks all about the dental antibiotics for tooth infection and in dentistry, including when they should be prescribed, and when they shouldn't.
Antibiotics have saved and will save many lives that could have been lost to infection, including in the world of dentistry. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics if you have a severe dental infection that can't be treated through other methods like a root canal or extraction.
Antibiotics are safe to use in children as well, as long as the recommended dosage is followed, although in children under 12, tetracyclines aren't recommended, as they can cause permanent tooth discoloring.
To help prevent antibiotic resistance and ensure that antibiotics can continue to save lives for many generations to come, only use those antibiotics prescribed by your dentist, and make sure you finish the entire treatment, even if you feel better before your course of treatment ends.
How much Clindamycin should I take for tooth infection?
You should take the dosage prescribed by your doctor. If you are prescribed a typical dose for Clindamycin, 300 mg for tooth infection, this is normal.
How long does it take for amoxicillin to work for tooth infection?
If you take the amoxicillin antibiotic for tooth infection, you may begin to feel better in just one to two days. However, that doesn't mean that your infection is cured. You must make sure to take your antibiotics for as many days as specified in your prescription, and even though you may feel better in a couple of days, your infection probably won't be gone until a week to 10 days have passed.
How long does it take for antibiotics to work for tooth infection?
It typically takes antibiotics for teeth infection around 7 to 10 days to completely rid your system of the infection. You're likely to start feeling better within a couple of days of taking your antibiotics for tooth infections, but the infection is still there. If you stop the antibiotics, the infection will just come back and stronger than before.
What is the best antibiotic for abscess tooth treatment?
The best antibiotic for dental abscess is the one your dentist prescribes for you. It's also likely one from the penicillin class, including penicillin and amoxicillin. Patients who are allergic to penicillin may be prescribed metronidazole instead for tooth abscess antibiotic treatment.