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Antibiotics For Tooth Infection

Antibiotics For Tooth Infection

Do you need antibiotics for a toothache? If your pain is caused by a tooth infection, the answer is likely yes, with follow up care by a dentist as well.

Without treatment, an infection that starts in a tooth can travel throughout your body with potentially life-threatening consequences such as infections of the head and neck.

Antibiotics can typically clear up the infection for the time being, but without going to the dentist the abscessed tooth or cracked tooth that harbored the infection is likely to become infected again.

Yes, going to the dentist can be very expensive, but it is cheaper than winding up in the hospital fighting off sepsis, an infection of your blood which can be deadly, or another advanced infection as a result of improper care.

Antibiotics for Tooth Infection

The type of antibiotic your doctor or dentist will prescribe for your tooth infection depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection and whether you’re allergic to any antibiotic or not.

Common antibiotics prescribed for tooth infections include:

  • Penicillin. Depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection, and the location of the infection, penicillin alone may not be effective so it may be prescribed alongside another antibiotics such as metronidazole.

  • Amoxicillin is given to adult patients with mild tooth infections without any signs of sepsis.

  • Clindamycin is usually given to penicillin allergic patients.

It is important to understand that even if you feel better, antibiotics should still be taken for the complete duration of prescribed time. The reason for this is despite feeling better, there is a possibility you have not fully recovered and some bacteria may still remain in the tooth.

By discontinuing antibiotic use sooner than necessary you allow these remaining bacteria to reproduce. However, due to their antibiotic exposure, it is likely that the new bacteria will be antibiotic resistant and lead to a much worse infection that is harder to treat. This is referred to as antibiotic-resistance and it is a growing concern within the medical community.

According to statistics, 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. This causes approximately 23,000 deaths a year. It is for this reason that patients are cautioned to continue taking their antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor.

Why Should You Treat a Bacterial Tooth Infection With Antibiotics?

Any infection that is in your head or neck, such as a tooth infection, should be taken very seriously. This is because the infection may spread to your brain, given its close proximity to the head. This is a potentially life threatening condition.

Additionally, if the infection is bacterial - as tooth infections and other infections in the mouth often are - then it is unlikely it will go away on its own.

Most oral bacterial infections need antibiotic treatment to fight off the infection and keep it away. Without antibiotics for tooth infections you risk spreading the infection, and as mentioned above, this can be very serious.

When To Skip Antibiotics For Tooth Infection

In some cases antibiotics may not be necessary. There are three common situations where this applies:

  1. If the infected tooth is completely removed
  2. If a root canal is performed on the infected tooth
  3. If you have an abscess that your dentist is able to drain completely

Tooth Infection Causes

There are many potential causes of tooth infections. The 3 most common causes of tooth infections are:

  • Tooth Decay
  • Dental work
  • Injuries

Plaque formation plays a very important role in the development of dental cavities and tooth infection. Plaque is a collection of bacteria that sticks to the surface of the tooth. Oral hygiene, diet, and genetic predisposition are also risk factors.

If you have a tooth that is decaying or an untreated cavity and you are experiencing pain you may have an infection and should seek treatment.

Additionally, if you have recently had dental work or an injury to the mouth and are experiencing tooth pain it's likely you have a tooth infection and you should also seek treatment.

Tooth Infection Symptoms

Given the potential complications of tooth infections, it is very important to recognize the symptoms so you know when to seek treatment.

Symptoms typically associated with a tooth infection include:

  • Discoloration. Affected tooth becomes darker than teeth surrounding it
  • Tooth becomes sensitive to hot or cold foods
  • Pain when eating or pressing on tooth
  • Throbbing pain in tooth
  • Fever
  • Swollen gums that are infected with pus – the infected area may resemble a pimple. Also known as gingivitis, additional symptoms include bluish discoloration of gums, bleeding after brushing and foul breath (halitosis).
  • Swollen lymph nodes or jaw
  • Pain in the jaw

If you are experiencing the symptoms above you should contact a doctor or dentist for a treatment plan.

How Long Should I Take Antibiotics For a Tooth Infection?

Typically antibiotics for a tooth infection are prescribed for one week. Though for some people it may take more time for the antibiotics to reach the infection in which case the time period may be extended by your doctor. Antibiotic therapy is indicated when there is fever and regional lymph nodes are swollen.

Patients with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk for spreading of orofacial infections so antibiotic treatment is highly recommended.

Depending on your dosage you may take your antibiotics 2 to 4 times a day. Always follow the instructions of your prescribing doctor regarding dosage and length of prescription time.

Home Remedies for Tooth Infections

A tooth infection should always be checked out by a doctor or dentist, but there are some things you can do at home to relieve your symptoms while you wait for your dental appointment:

  • Rinse with salt water up to three times per day.
  • Swish a mixture of water and baking soda in your mouth for up to five minutes up to twice a day.
  • Apply oregano oil to the affected area with a cotton swab. Rinse after 10 minutes. You can repeat this up to three times a day.
  • Use a cold compress for 15 minutes off and on throughout the day.
  • Apply fenugreek tea to the affected tooth with a cotton swab as often as three times a day.
  • Apply clove oil directly to the tooth or add it to water to use as a mouthwash as much as three times a day.
  • Use thyme oil on the affected tooth as often as three times a day.
  • Mix equal parts 3% hydrogen peroxide and water, swish it around, then spit it out. You can do this several times a day.
  • Create a paste with crushed fresh garlic and apply it to the area several times a day.

Think you may be suffering from a tooth infection? Book an appointment to speak with a PlushCare doctor and get antibiotics for tooth infection online today.

PlushCare takes content accuracy seriously so we can be your trusted source of medical information. Most articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.D.s, NPs, or NDs. Click here to meet the healthcare professionals behind the blog.

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Dr. Umer Khan

Dr. Umer Khan

Medically reviewed by Dr Umer Khan, MD who is a Board Certified physician practicing in Pennsylvania. His special interests include wellness, longevity and medical IT.

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