Treating Dental Infections With Antibiotics

Marielaina Perrone DDS Dentist HENDERSON, NV

Marielaina Perrone DDS is a family, implant, and cosmetic dentist serving Las Vegas, Summerlin, and Henderson, NV. Dental services include dental implants, teeth whitening, orthodontics, Botox, and treatment of periodontal disease. "We believe in a comprehensive approach to restorative and cosmetic dentistry, that fully... more

Dental infections (also referred to as an abscess) usually develop as a result of untreated tooth decay and poor oral hygiene. Although a dental infection can also develop from previous dental work or traumatic injury. When a dental infection develops, a pocket of pus forms in the mouth as a result of an overwhelming growth of bacteria. The symptoms of a dental infection often include swelling, pain (often radiating away from area), and sensitivity in the area. It is vital to seek professional treatment as without proper and timely treatment, the dental infection may spread to other areas of the jaw or even the brain.

Tooth decay and cavities are very common in most adults. About 90% of adults between the ages of 20–64 have experienced prior tooth decay. Also, about 30% of people in the same age group have untreated tooth decay. Treating tooth decay early is important to prevent further complications such as dental infections, which can lead to tooth loss. Anyone who experiences dental infections should see a dentist immediately to prevent the dental infection from spreading.

One of the initial treatments that a dentist will recommend is an antibiotic to kill dental infections. Certain antibiotics will work better than others, depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection. There may also be some over-the-counter pain medications to temporarily relieve the dental infection symptoms.

Antibiotic Use For Dental Infections

Dentists will usually only recommend antibiotics for dental infections. However, not all infected teeth will require antibiotics during treatment. In some cases, a dentist may be able to drain the infected area of pus, remove the infected tooth, or complete a root canal procedure to fix the issue. Antibiotics should not be used unless absolutely necessary to complete the dental infection treatment.

Antibiotic Types And Dosages 

The type and dosage of antibiotic used will vary depending on the type of bacteria that caused the dental infection. Different antibiotics work in different ways to eliminate specific strains of bacteria. There are over 150 different strains of bacteria that exist in the oral cavity. Many of these bacteria have the potential to grow and cause a dental infection. Treatment can change depending on the bacteria, however, dentists will recommend an antibiotic that works against most types. This gives the best chance to handle the infection effectively and quickly.

Classes Of Penicillin For Dental Infections

Penicillin type drugs are common forms of antibiotics that are used for dental infections. This includes penicillin and amoxicillin. Dentists may recommend amoxicillin with clavulanic acid, as that combination can help eliminate bacteria that are being unsuccessfully treated by previous drugs.

Typical dosages of amoxicillin for a dental infection are either 500 milligrams (mg) every 8 hours or 1,000 mg every 12 hours.

Typical dosages of amoxicillin with clavulanic acid are around 500–2,000 mg every 8 hours or 2,000 mg every 12 hours, depending on the minimum effective dosage.

However, some bacteria are resistant to these drugs, making them less effective. Many doctors now simply choose a different antibiotic as their first line of treatment.

Dentists should be aware that some people are allergic to these drugs. Anyone who has had an allergic reaction to similar medications should tell their dentist immediately before receiving their treatment.

- Clindamycin

Clindamycin is highly effective against a wide range of infectious bacteria. Some researchers recommend clindamycin as the drug of choice to treat dental infections, as bacteria may be less likely to resist this drug, as opposed to penicillin-class drugs.

A typical dosage of clindamycin is either 300 mg or 600 mg every 8 hours, depending on which dosage will be effective for the individual situation.

- Azithromycin

Azithromycin is able to work against a wide variety of bacteria by halting their growth. It may be effective in treating some dental infections, although dentists may only recommend it to people who are allergic to penicillin-class drugs or who do not respond to them, or other drugs such as clindamycin.

The typical dosage of azithromycin is 500 mg every 24 hours for 3 consecutive days.

- Metronidazole

Metronidazole is an antibiotic used to treat a number of infections by both doctors and dentists. This drug is typically not the first choice of treatment.

The dosage for metronidazole is around 500–750 mg every 8 hours.

The Speed Of Antibiotics

The speed that each antibiotic takes to work on the dental infection varies. This includes the severity of the infection and how effective the drug is at eliminating the infectious bacteria. It is imperative for people to complete a full round of antibiotics, taking all of the prescribed medication exactly how the dentist says. An individual may begin to notice their symptoms go away after a few doses, however, completing the full dosage of antibiotics helps prevent the infection from returning or getting stronger.

The majority of acute infections resolve in 3–7 days.

Side Effects Of Antibiotics 

While antibiotics are very effective for dental infections, they can have some side effects. These side effects can vary by antibiotic type and individual. It is important to speak with your dentist regarding possible side effects and what to expect before treatment. 

Dental Infection Treatments Past Antibiotics

Antibiotics may help to eliminate active dental infections, but the tooth will still need work to clear up the root of the dental infection. An antibiotic is just one part of the treatment.

Typical treatment for a dental infection can include one or more of the following:

- Draining the abscess

- Filling in any cavities

- Performing a root canal

- Extracting the infected tooth

Natural Remedies For Dental infections

Some over-the-counter remedies may help manage the symptoms of a dental infection. This can include over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Sodium naproxen (Alleve).

Other remedies to try at home:

- Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water

- Rinsing with baking soda and water

- Avoiding very hot or very cold foods to prevent temperature sensitivity

- Chewing with the opposite side of the mouth

- Brushing with a very soft toothbrush around the area

- Avoiding very sharp, hard-to-chew foods that may cause sensitivity or become stuck in the teeth

- Sleeping with your head elevated to relieve pressure

Dental Infections 

Antibiotics are not the only solution for dental infections. They are a part of a larger dental infection treatment. Most dental infections require further dental work by your dentist, which can include a root canal or tooth extraction. Having a prompt dental treatment plan is important to keep dental infections from spreading and becoming worse.

The helpful home remedies mentioned above may help keep inflammation lowered or ease pain while taking antibiotics and preparing for the recommended dental procedure. By maintaining a good oral hygiene routine, such as brushing and flossing every day and seeing a dentist for regular checkups, this can help prevent dental infections.