At times physicians and dentists recommend that a patient take antibiotics before certain dental procedures. This is called “antibiotic prophylaxis.” But why do healthcare providers suggest this extra step?
We all have bacteria in our mouths, and a number of dental treatments—and even daily routines like chewing, brushing or flossing—can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream (bacteremia). For most of us, this isn’t a problem. A healthy immune system prevents these bacteria from causing any harm. There is concern, however, that for some people bacteremia can cause an infection elsewhere in the body.
Who is at risk? Antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended for a small number of people who have specific heart conditions. The American Heart Association has guidelines identifying people who should take antibiotics prior to dental care.
According to these guidelines, antibiotic prophylaxis should be considered for people with:
Talk to your dentist about these guidelines if you have any questions about antibiotic prophylaxis.
Antibiotic prophylaxis guidelines have also been revised for people with orthopedic implants such as artificial joints. Learn more about why the ADA and American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons updated the recommendations and no longer recommend antibiotics for everyone with artificial joints.