Dentists Unite against Antibiotic Resistance
If there’s one health-related topic that’s been consistently grabbing headlines in recent years it’s antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is a term referring to bacterial infections that can no longer be treated effectively with existing antibiotics. It’s a huge problem facing modern medicine because simple infections that are currently treated quickly and easily may soon become unmanageable. It’s a particular issue for patients undergoing serious medical treatments such as major surgery, chemotherapy or stem cell transplant; the advent of antibiotic resistance means the simplest of surgeries could become too risky to carry out.
For medical professionals, this growing problem has demanded fresh approaches to the use of antibiotics. Resistance develops through overuse and misuse – not finishing a course of antibiotics, for instance, can lead to small amounts of bacteria surviving and, in response to the specific treatment, developing a resistance.
It’s unsurprising, then, that medical bodies like the Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP), the British Dental Association and the Association of Clinical Oral Microbiologists are coming together to raise awareness of antibiotic misuse, and to audit the way dentists manage oral and dental infections.
According to Dentistry.co.uk, dental treatments account for 9% of all antibiotic use in the UK. By more rigorously auditing the way in which antibiotics are prescribed for dental issues, it is hoped that we will see a decline in misuse. Bodies like the FGDP currently offer guidance for how antibiotics should be prescribed, however, going forward, British dentists are keen to do more.
One tactic is to spend more time explaining treatments to patients. It’s hoped that, with some more guidance from their dentist, patients who are prescribed antibiotics will start taking them more responsibly.
In essence, it all comes down to education, which is why we’ve pulled together a short guide to common dental issues, and how you can treat them safely – without contributing to the resistance crisis.
Common Dental Problems
A common marker of a dental problem is toothache, which occurs when the tissue at the centre of a tooth becomes inflamed. Because some of the causes of toothache can be fairly serious, it’s important to visit a dentist if the pain doesn’t go away on its own after one or two days – particularly if it is very severe.
Causes of toothache include:
- Tooth decay, in which acid caused by plaque build-up attacks your teeth leading to cavities, or in worse cases gum disease or abscesses
- A cracked tooth
- A broken or loose filling
- Receding gums, in which the gums shrink away, exposing the more sensitive parts of the tooth
- Periapical abscess, in which a bacterial infection causes pus to collect at the end of the tooth
Oral pain that is not strictly defined as toothache (because it does not stem from the centre of the tooth) can be caused by:
- Periodontal abscess, in which a bacterial infection causes pus to collect in the gums
- Soreness around a tooth about to break through (for adults, this typically happens with wisdom teeth)
Treatments for Dental Pain
You may think that dental discomfort caused by a bacterial infection would be automatically treated with antibiotics; however, this isn’t the case. In fact, antibiotics should typically only be prescribed in emergency situations when the infection is very severe.
Usually, dental issues such as those described above should be tackled with a combination of dental procedures (for abscesses, this can involve a root canal or tooth extraction) and lifestyle changes. The current NHS guidance on dental health recommends the following:
- Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, at least two times a day
- Using floss or an interdental brush once a day to clean between teeth and around the gum line
- Reducing your intake of sugary or starchy foods and drinks
- Visiting your dentist regularly
More guidance on good dental hygiene can be found at The Oral Health Foundation.
In the case of a severe dental abscess, The Online Clinic can prescribe emergency antibiotics. This is a good option if you cannot get access to your dentist. Click here to visit our online dental clinic and learn more.