New guidelines say antibiotics no longer recommended for toothaches

New guidelines from the American Dental Association say that antibiotics are not necessary for most toothaches.

Currently, it’s common practice for doctors and dentists to prescribe antibiotics for patients suffering from toothache symptoms, as well as to prevent more serious conditions.

However, a review that led to the new guideline noted that antibiotics aren’t the best choice for adults who are suffering from a toothache.

Rather, it’s better to get treated for the dental condition and, if necessary, use over-the-counter pain relief like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen, the ADA said.

“Antibiotics are, of course, tremendously important medications,” said Dr. Peter Lockhart, chairman of the expert panel that developed the new guideline. “However, it’s vital that we use them wisely so that they continue to be effective when absolutely needed.”

Antibiotics are made to treat bacterial infections but they aren’t necessarily useful for toothaches.

Rather, they can often cause harmful, serious side effects. Overuse has led to some bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, so overall, healthcare providers are prescribing less of them.

“When dental treatment is not immediately available and the patient has signs and symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, or extreme tiredness, antibiotics may need to be prescribed,” Lockhart said in an ADA news release.

“But in most cases when adults have a toothache and access to dental treatment, antibiotics may actually do more harm than good.”

The new guideline was published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

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