Plenty of people understand the importance of regular dental appointments; in fact, the ADA has found that 42% of Americans would like to see their dentist more often, and 85% agree that a healthy mouth is extremely important for a healthy body. However, many patients may need to take certain medications before a dental visit. Are you in this group? And why would such preparation be required? Here’s why your dentist in Reston might ask you to take antibiotics before your appointment.
What are Antibiotics?
As you’re probably aware, antibiotics refers to medication that’s used to treat infections or certain diseases. The medicine kills existing bacteria and stops them from multiplying, which helps the immune system fight back. Antibiotics can be used on a wide range of bacteria or on a select few.
Why Would My Dentist Give Me Antibiotics?
In most cases, antibiotics are used for existing dental infections, such as an abscessed tooth or gum disease. This is usually only a temporary treatment until a procedure can be performed; normally, tooth extraction, root canal therapy or deep cleaning of the gums are the ultimate solutions to an oral infection.
However, for certain patients, antibiotics might be necessary to avoid infections that might result from dental work. This is called premedication.
Who Might Need Premedication?
At this time, the ADA (American Dental Association) only recommends premedication for patients who have preexisting heart conditions that might put them at risk for infective endocarditis (an infection of the heart valves or the interior surfaces of the heart chambers). This includes patients with artificial heart valves, patients who have had a heart transplant and valve regurgitation, and patients with very specific congenital heart problems.
Patients with compromised immune systems are generally at a higher risk of infection, even if their condition has nothing to do with their teeth. In these cases, antibiotics might be used as a preventive measure.
There is some debate whether premedication is necessary for patients who have had a joint replaced in order to avoid infection in that area. The treatment is not currently recommended by the ADA due to a lack of documented evidence of any link between dental work and join infections. That said, antibiotics could still be beneficial for certain invasive procedures.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Antibiotics?
Some people might have an allergic reaction to antibiotics, and the risk can increase if the medication is used too frequently. Another potential problem is that the bacteria in your body might adapt and change so that the antibiotics are no longer effective, which could make future infections much more difficult to treat. It is therefore generally better for dentists to avoid using antibiotics when they’re not needed.
In order to determine whether you need premedication before an appointment, talk with your dentist about your medical history and any other relevant health information. Antibiotics can be a powerful tool for protecting your oral health – but only when they’re used correctly.
About the Author
Dr. Wayne Myles believes in the importance of helping people through his work as a dentist. At Smiles by Myles, he offers a wide range of preventive, cosmetic and restorative dental treatments; he makes a point of providing compassionate care for all his patients. He can help you evaluate your health and determine whether you might need antibiotics before your appointment. To schedule an appointment, visit his website or call (703) 925-0800.