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Antibiotics Not Necessary for Most Toothaches, According to New Guideline

The American Dental Association (ADA) released a new guideline indicating that in most cases, antibiotics are not recommended for toothaches.

CHICAGO —The American Dental Association (ADA) released a new guideline indicating that in most cases, antibiotics are not recommended for toothaches. This guidance, published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, aligns with the ADA’s longstanding antibiotic stewardship efforts and pledged commitment to the U.S. government’s Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge.

Patients with toothaches are often prescribed antibiotics by physicians and dentists to help relieve signs and symptoms and prevent progression to a more serious condition. However, the new guideline and accompanying systematic review find that healthy adults experiencing a toothache are best served not by antibiotics, but by dental treatment and, if needed, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

The guideline offers example scenarios when antibiotics may be prescribed for a toothache. “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,” notes Peter Lockhart, DDS, chair of the ADA expert panel that developed the guideline. “But, in most cases when adults have a toothache and access to dental treatment, antibiotics may actually do more harm than good.”

To view the full guideline and supporting patient information, visit ADA.org/antibiotics.

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