You most likely know what antibiotics are used for – they are for treating infections caused by bacteria. But did you know that your dentist may also suggest that you take them before a dental procedure to prevent the chance of infection? Such a method of use is called antibiotic prophylaxis, and you will learn more about it in this article.

Antibiotics help prevent infections

Why is antibiotic prophylaxis done?

Antibiotic prophylaxis is a protective measure taken by your dental professional to prevent bacteria from spreading from the mouth to the other parts of the body through the bloodstream. It is given prior to dental treatment in, especially susceptible patients.

Who might benefit from antibiotic prophylaxis?

Not all patients require antibiotic prophylaxis. It is only used in susceptible individuals and these include, among others, patients who have or have had heart disease. These patients are at increased risk of developing this so-called endocarditis, which pertains to the inflammation of the tissue that lines the heart.

To limit the chances of developing this disease, the American Heart Association released a guideline stating that antibiotic prophylaxis must be considered in the following individuals who have:

1) An artificial heart valve or have had a heart valve repaired with a prosthetic material.

2) A history of ineffective endocarditis.

3) A heart transplant that developed a valve problem.

4) Congenital heart conditions (i.e. unrepaired or incompletely-repaired congenital heart disease, completely-repaired heart defect within six months after the intervention, and repaired congenital heart disease but with residual defects).

Antibiotic prophylaxis was also once recommended for individuals who have had joint replacements, as these individuals have a compromised immune system that makes them less able to fight infections. But such recommendation is no longer followed.]

Other conditions that may warrant antibiotic prophylaxis include uncontrolled or poorly-controlled diabetes, HIV infection or AIDS, and rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals who have had chemotherapy or organ transplant may also need antibiotic prophylaxis.

Will I need antibiotic prophylaxis even if I’m systemically healthy?

Yes, there will be some instances where antibiotic prophylaxis may be needed. Such instances include:

1) Undergoing an extensive procedure that carries a great risk of infection.

2) Undergoing a procedure that will be performed in an environment where the risk of developing an infection is very likely.

3) When there is a coexisting oral infection.

Which dental procedures may require antibiotic prophylaxis?

Antibiotic prophylaxis is required for any dental procedure where bleeding is anticipated. These include extractions, periodontal treatment (cleaning), implant surgery, root canal therapy, and placement of orthodontic bands. Restorative and prosthodontic procedures generally do not warrant the use of prophylactic antibiotics.

Why can’t all everyone be given antibiotic prophylaxis?

Antibiotic prophylaxis is only used in instances where potential benefits outweigh the risks. If antibiotics are used when they’re not supposed to, there can be side effects that are mostly gastrointestinal in nature. There may also be allergic reactions that can be life-threatening.

Furthermore, frequent use of antibiotics when they are not really needed can render the bacteria more resistant to these medications. With that, antibiotic prophylaxis is reserved only for those at greatest risk getting infected during dental treatment.

When asking for your medical history, be sure to tell your dentist every bit he or she has to know, especially about your medical problems and the medications you are taking for them. This information should help your dentist and physician determine whether or not you could benefit from antibiotic prophylaxis.