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Dental Work: When to Use Antibiotic Prophylaxis

  • Synopsis: Published: 2015-12-30 - For some people the use of antibiotic prophylaxis may be recommended by your dentist to prevent infection - Pennsylvania Dental Association (
Antibiotic Prophylaxis

Antibiotic prophylaxis refers to the prevention of infection complications using antimicrobial therapy (most commonly antibiotics). Antibiotic prophylaxis recommendations exist for two groups of patients: those with heart conditions that may predispose them to infective endocarditis, and those who have a prosthetic joints and may be at risk for developing hematogenous infections at the site of the prosthetic.

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Quote: "All of us have bacteria in our mouths, and even basic dental treatments can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream."

When the majority of patients go in for their dental visits there is not much of a risk for bacterial infection. But for a small number of people, the use of antibiotic prophylaxis may be recommended by your dentist.

The American Dental Association (ADA) defines antibiotic prophylaxis as "the taking of antibiotics before some dental procedures such as teeth cleaning, tooth extractions, root canals, and deep cleaning between the tooth root and gums to prevent infection."

All of us have bacteria in our mouths, and even basic dental treatments can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. However the majority of people don't have to worry about this, since a healthy immune system prevents the bacteria from causing any harm.

Dr. Tamara Brady, a PDA member dentist in Downingtown, Pa., receives questions about prophylaxis from time to time.

"I tell patients who inquire about pre-medication for cardiac prophylaxis that we follow the recommendations of the ADA and the American Heart Association (AHA). If their physician recommends prophylaxis for a condition not recommended for prophylaxis by the AHA then they should get the prescription from their medical doctor."

Who should consider taking prophylaxis?

According to the AHA, antibiotic prophylaxis should be used for people who have certain heart conditions. This includes those with;

  • Artificial valves,
  • A heart transplant in which a problem has developed, infection of the lining of the heart,
  • Heart conditions that are present from birth.

Talking with your dentist is always the best route to go if you are unsure whether or not to consider this pre-medication.

About the Pennsylvania Dental Association

Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world.

PDA's mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. For more information on PDA, visit

Related Information:

  1. Dental X-rays Linked to Brain Tumors - Brigham and Women's Hospital
  2. Orthodontic Care for Patients with Disability - American Association of Orthodontists (AAO)
  3. Improving Oral Health of Adults with Developmental Disabilities and Support for Caregivers - Tufts University, Boston Health Sciences Campus

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