When to use an antibiotic prophylaxis ?

When to use an antibiotic prophylaxis ?

March 10, 2020 6:51 am Published by

The phrase might sound big and complicated, but an antibiotic prophylaxis is actually a very simple idea. Antibiotics exist to stop infections caused by bad bacteria. ‘Prophylaxis’ is a medical term for ‘prevention’. Together, the phrase refers to antibiotics that are taken before a dental procedure, to prevent an infection afterwards. Your dentist or dental surgeon might suggest this if you need some dental work, and you have another condition that makes an infection a bigger possibility than usual.

  • How it works

We all have a range of good and bad bacteria living in our mouths. Normally, the body’s immune system can manage this situation just fine by itself. However, some dental procedures run the risk of letting bloodstream spread through the body via the blood stream. These bacteria could then cause trouble – meaning, an infection – by settling in another location. Taking antibiotics before a procedure means the protective drugs will already be in your bloodstream, and bacteria are likely to be killed before they can do any harm.

  • Making a decision

Taking antibiotics is not something to be done lightly. Since antibiotics came into common use in the 1940s, it’s been a constant race to stay ahead of the few, clever bacteria that are able to develop resistance to them. At first winning this race was pretty easy, but in recent years it’s become harder to develop new and effective antibiotics. Nowadays, every doctor will think hard before handing them out, and will weigh the advantages against the risks for each patient. That’s not to mention the side effects that can go hand in hand with taking them – as antibiotics will kill ‘good’ bacteria in your body, as well as the bad. This can cause stomach problems and other issues.

  • Who needs it

There are a small number of situations in dentistry where an antibiotic prophylaxis is deemed truly necessary. These are mostly around heart conditions, as this part of the body is where the bacteria in the bloodstream would travel to first – making the chance of an infection in the heart or its linings that bit more likely. This is called IE or infective endocarditis. If you have a repaired or completely prosthetic heart valve, any kind of heart condition with an ongoing issue, or a history of heart infections, then this might apply to you. Added to that, if you need an invasive dental treatment, like a tooth extraction, gum surgery, or a root canal, this is the kind of situation where an antibiotic prophylaxis might be needed.

  • Who doesn’t need it

Other people may be vulnerable to infection, but it might not be a good idea to take antibiotics. In the past, anyone who had a prosthetic joint, such as a knee or hip, would be considered suitable. If you had a heart condition, you might be given an antibiotic prophylaxis even if the dental procedure required was very minor. However, nowadays the risks associated with antibiotics outweigh the few benefits of taking them. The exception would be if you had serious health issues, or a problem with your prosthetic – either situation meaning your immune system might not be best equipped to deal with bacteria.

  • How to manage it

First, make sure your regular dentist is aware of any health conditions you have. This means they can advise the best treatment that will suit you. And, in all this talk of bacteria, it’s important to know that the risk of infection is very small – even if you do have a heart condition. Trust your dentist to have your best interests in mind when they make a recommendation to you. To avoid dental problems, make sure you have a great dental routine, with twice-daily brushing, mouthwash and regular flossing. See your dentist every six months for a check-up. This is the best way to prevent any kind of infections or problems in the first place.

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