Dental emergencies happen. They come out of left field. Intensely painful, they can swell your face and feel dangerously serious. Many folks ultimately decide their toothache warrants a visit to an emergency room or physician’s office.
But are they really the best ones to deal with your problem? Not really, according to a recent study in the British Journal of General Practice.
Looking at the number of patients seen, antibiotic prescriptions issued, and resolution of dental problems over a 10-year period, the authors found that a good number of patients consult a physician about their dental pain and that half of those who do were prescribed antibiotics.
- Antibiotics aren’t the best or most appropriate treatment for most dental issues.
- Antibiotics can cover up more serious problems.
- Delaying necessary dental treatment may have long-term consequences for a patient’s oral and overall health alike.
- Prescribing unnecessary antibiotics may increase antibiotic resistance.
And these results aren’t exclusive to the UK. Research on ER visits for dental conditions found similar practices here in the US. Here, more than 75% of patients were given at least one painkiller, and 56% received at least one antibiotic.
The vast majority were referred to a dentist for further evaluation – driving home the point that your best bet is to just see a dentist first. You get prompt resolution of your pain. You don’t wind up paying for unnecessary or redundant care.
Oddly, while antibiotic prescriptions are finally on the wane overall, dentists appear to be prescribing them more, according to a recent study in JADA. The authors noted several factors driving this trend.
- Older patients (age60+).
- Unnecessary prescriptions for abscess and irreversible pulpitis.
- More prescribing associated with dental implants and their complications.
- Slow adoption of new guidelines for less perioperative antibiotic coverage. (“Perioperative” refers to the time around a surgery – before, during, and after.)
- Underinsurance driving antibiotics as a substitute for surgery.
Seek Care at a Biological Dental Office Near You
We agree with the studies conclusions: If you have a dental emergency, your first, best option is seeing a dentist for treatment. We, too, are concerned about the trend in indiscriminately throwing antibiotics at dental problems.
While biological dentists can – and do – prescribe antibiotics, we don’t prescribe them routinely. Many instances of pain just don’t benefit from antibiotic use. And there are other ways of effectively treating painful infections – for instance, dental ozone.
The main thing? Seek care. From a dentist. Toothaches generally don’t get better on their own.
And if it will be a day or two before you can get to a dentist? There are some great natural home remedies for helping ease the pain.
Image by Garry Knight