Antibiotics are generally used to treat an infection, but they can be used to prevent an infection as well. This is especially important for patients with specific heart conditions or artificial joints – this is another reason why your dentist asks you so many questions about your medical history!
While antibiotics eliminate infections, there are certain cases where antibiotics protect patients from possible infection.
How Do Antibiotics Prevent Infection?
Invasive dental procedures, such as surgery and cleanings, usually cause bleeding of the gums. This bleeding allows bacteria from the mouth easy access into the blood stream. Once in the blood stream, these bacteria can reach and infect vulnerable heart tissue and artificial joints leading to life threatening infections.
Antibiotics taken before invasive dental treatment effectively eliminate bacteria, reducing the risk of infection. The prescribed antibiotics are common, usually amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, and trovafloxacin. However, the type of medication used depends on the bacteria that needs to be eliminated.
When Are Antibiotics Taken?
Before invasive dental procedures, patients with certain heart conditions and those with total artificial joint replacements need to take antibiotics. These people can be at risk for developing heart or joint infections. Antibiotics reduce this risk – this is called antibiotic prophylaxis.
When treating a patient with certain heart conditions, all dentists follow recommendations developed by the American Heart Association. For those patients with total joint replacements, dentists refer to the guidelines provided by the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Who Needs to Take Antibiotics?
Those who have artificial joints need to take antibiotics before invasive dental procedures, as well as patients who have a history of a bacterial infection of the heart (called endocarditis) or a heart defect present at birth.
“Patients with artificial heart valves, a prior history of infective endocarditis, heart transplants and certain congenital heart defects are required to have antibiotic prophylaxis,” says Dr. Todd Beck. “All patients with artificial joints need to take antibiotics prior to invasive dental treatment.”
Since antibiotics for invasive dental procedures are taken once instead of multiple times, it is unlikely that patients will experience adverse side effects. Be sure to let Dr. Beck know of any conditions or allergies right away in order to ensure your best dental health.