Your mouth has bacteria that can get into your bloodstream. For most people, these bacteria don’t cause a problem. But there is concern that for some people, bacteria in the bloodstream can cause an infection elsewhere in the body. That’s why your physician or dentist may advise you to take an antibiotic before some dental procedures. The antibiotic can kill infection-causing bacteria.
Not everyone should take antibiotics before dental treatment. This brochure will explain who should take antibiotics in this case and who should not.
Bacteria normally are found on and in some parts of the body, including the skin and mouth. The bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream. This can happen during some dental treatments, like teeth cleanings, or even from daily activities like chewing, toothbrushing, and flossing. For most people, the body’s immune system fights any bacteria, so the risk of infection stays low.
There’s concern that for some people, bacteria in the bloodstream can cause an infection of the heart lining or valves (infective endocarditis) or an infection of an orthopedic implant (such as artificial joints or metal plates or rods).
Because of this concern, some people with certain heart conditions and orthopedic implants are told to take antibiotics before having certain dental treatments. This is done with the belief that antibiotics might help prevent infective endocarditis or an implant infection. Taking antibiotics before dental treatment is called antibiotic prophylaxis (or preventive medicine).
However, there is no scientific evidence to show that bacteria in the bloodstream cause orthopedic implant infections. There is also no scientific evidence that antibiotic prophylaxis defends against infective endocarditis or an implant infection.
In most cases, taking antibiotics is more likely to cause a problem than defend against one. Antibiotics can cause side effects from mild stomach problems to severe allergic reactions. Taking antibiotics can destroy good germs that protect against infection. Also, improper use of antibiotics can lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
Talk to your dentist or physician if you have any questions about antibiotics. If there are any changes in your health history or the medicines you take, let your dental office know so they can update your records.
You can maintain a healthy mouth by brushing twice a day, cleaning between your teeth daily, and visiting the dentist regularly.