Antibiotics for a Tooth Abscess
Antibiotics are often used to help treat an infection from a tooth abscess. Since a severe abscess from an infected tooth can be life-threatening, antibiotics can be absolutely necessary to help a patient recover. There are times, though, when it is considered “overkill” to take an antibiotic. The medical profession is constantly re-evaluating and updating guidelines for doctors and dentists who prescribe medication. Here are some signs that help determine whether or not someone definitely should be on an antibiotic:
SWELLING – If you have noticeable swelling of the jaw, the area under the chin, cheek, or under the eye, see a dentist as soon as possible. Swelling of the lower jaw can cause a condition called Ludwig’s Angina, which can block an individual’s airway. Swelling of the upper jaw can spread to the brain. A strong antibiotic should be prescribed, then the cause of the infection should be treated. Treatment may include drainage of pus from an area if the dentist feels that it is possible. Final treatment to remove the source of the infection may be extraction of a tooth, root canal treatment, or cleaning of a gum infection.
NO VISIBLE SWELLING – a dentist may still prescribe antibiotics even if you don’t appear swollen, if there is a sign of infection on your x-rays.. Often there is a small area of infection in the jaw bone that can be seen on your x-ray, and antibiotics may be indicated to help the bone heal.
PAIN – pain alone does not always need to be treated with an antibiotic. A large cavity may be painful but not infected. Or, if there is an abscess with some superficial gum swelling that is already draining, there is no need to take an antibiotic
It is estimated that 1/2 of all antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary and it is known that antibiotic use has lead to the development of “superbugs” which are extremely difficult to treat.
It is important that dentists carefully decide whether or not a patient should take antibiotics.
ANTIBIOTICS – the most commonly used are still the “cillins”, such as Penicillin or Amoxicillin. If you are allergic to these, Clindamycin is usually prescribed. Cephalexin and Azithromycin are other options.