Dentists Advised to Stay the Course in Antibiotics Debate

Dentistry Today


To combat antimicrobial resistance, physicians typically tell patients to complete their full courses of antibiotic treatment. Yet a team of researchers in the United Kingdom not only says that there is no evidence that this approach is helpful, but that it may even make things worse and that patients should stop taking these medications once they feel better.

As physicians and medical organizations such as the Royal College of General Practitioners continue to debate if full or abbreviated treatment is better for preventing resistance, the Faculty of General Dental Practice in the UK (FGDP(UK)) says that nothing should change for dentists, who often prescribe short courses of antibiotics anyway.

“This will be nothing new for dentists. Our advice since publishing the first edition of our guidance in 2001, and in line with the British National Formulary and scientific evidence, has always been that courses of antibiotics should not be unduly prolonged because they encourage resistance and may lead to side effects,” said Nikolaus Palmer, BDS, PhD, editor of the FGDP(UK)’s Antimicrobial Prescribing for General Dental Practitioners.

“Where antibiotics are indicated in the management of dental infections as an adjunct to definitive treatment such as drainage, the evidence is clear that complete resolution occurs within 3 days in most cases. We recommend that antibiotics should be prescribed where indicated for up to 5 days, with patients being reviewed at 2 to 3 days and discontinuing antibiotic use where there is resolution of temperature and swelling,” Palmer said.

The FGDP(UK) further advises patients to return any unused medication they may have to their local pharmacy for safe disposal. Also, the FGDP(UK) has other resources for dentists, including the Antimicrobial Prescribing Self-Audit Tool, Antibiotics Don’t Cure Toothache poster, and a patient information leaflet. More information about antimicrobial resistance is available on the group’s antibiotic stewardship page as well.

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