Antibiotics usually are used to treat bacterial infections. Sometimes dentists or physicians suggest taking antibiotics before treatment to decrease the chance of infection. This is called antibiotic prophylaxis. During some dental treatments, bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream. The immune system kills these bacteria. In some patients, bacteria from the mouth can travel through the bloodstream and cause an infection somewhere else in the body. Antibiotic prophylaxis may offer these people extra protection.
WHO MIGHT BENEFIT FROM ANTIBIOTIC PROPHYLAXIS?
People with certain heart conditions may be at increased risk of developing infective endocarditis (IE)—an infection of the lining of the heart or heart valves. To protect against IE, or limit its effects should the infection develop, the American Heart Association suggests that antibiotic prophylaxis be considered for certain heart conditions.
WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD HIP OR KNEE REPLACEMENT SURGERY?
The ADA does not routinely recommend antibiotic prophylaxis for people who have had a hip, knee, or other joint replaced. People who have had joint replacement should talk to their dentist and orthopedic surgeon to see if antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended. Conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer and medications such as steroids and those used in chemotherapy can affect your ability to fight infections.
WHY IS ANTIBIOTIC PROPHYLAXIS NOT USED FOR EVERY PATIENT?
Antibiotic prophylaxis is not right for everyone and—like any medicine—antibiotics should only be used when the potential benefits outweigh the risks of taking them.Side effects associated with taking antibiotics include upset stomach, diarrhea, and allergic reactions, some of which can be life threatening. In addition, using antibiotics too often or incorrectly can allow bacteria to become resistant to those medications. Therefore, it is important to use antibiotic prophylaxis for only those people at greatest risk of developing an infection after dental treatment.