Antibiotics and dentistry

written by Tijana Fisher | WELLBEING COMMUNITY BLOGGER

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published an article about overuse of antibiotics in Australia and stated that “Prescribing Service data showed Australians’ antibiotics use was above the OECD average, with 40 per cent of people taking them in the past 12 months.” (Read more:

As I am sitting here, half way through a course of antibiotics prescribed to me by my GP for a suspected chest infection, nine months pregnant, still struggling to breathe and battling an excruciating cough (six weeks and counting), lack of sleep and all the pre-baby drama, I begin to ponder the importance of this article.

I am a very conscientious patient and medicine consumer. I avoid pharmaceuticals unless absolutely necessary and follow my doctor’s advice on the dosage, frequency and duration of any needed treatment. So far, through my pregnancy I have avoided taking any medication for a painful wisdom tooth infection, upper respiratory tract infection which left me bed-bound all through Christmas, a gastro-intestinal infection and this persistent six week cough which feels like it’s bringing the birth of my baby closer by the minute:) I know, you don’t need all the gory detail of my ailments over the past nine months, but with a preschooler/”germ factory” in the family, this is by no means unusual. To be honest, throughout those illnesses, my GP never recommended antibiotics as the infections were viral. As a health professional, I understand that antibiotics do not eliminate viruses. However, this most recent bout of illness prompted my GP to prescribe a course of ‘pregnancy-safe’ antibiotics. I am taking them, but my cough is not getting better- once again, probably a legacy of the viral component of my illness (and sometimes, bacteria and viruses can strike together).

II am boggled by the statistics of prescribed antibiotics use in Australia. I feel that a lot of it is not the public’s fault, but also the fault of their health professionals, who may find the use of antibiotics as the quickest way to ‘treat’ their patients. I know that this can also be tempting in a dental emergency, where dentists or medical GPs may not be able to accurately diagnose or haven’t got enough time to treat the affected tooth or gums. There is also a level of mis-information amongst the health professionals regarding the most appropriate treatment of dental problems and it is always best to see a dentist when your teeth or gums give you grief. Dentists are equipped to intervene and begin appropriate treatment without medication, whereas your medical GP will only have medication at their disposal until you get to see the dentist.

As a dentist, my prescription pad lasts me almost two years. In dentistry, antibiotics are pretty much useless, the best painkiller is an over-the counter anti-inflammatory and the ‘cure’ for infections and pain is intervention (this can be an intervention by the dentist to ‘fix’ the tooth or clean the gums, or by the patient, to eliminate potential causes of pain)!

When do dentists still use antibiotics?

Why is antibiotic overuse so dangerous:

How we can all help protect our community from more problems:

Do not insist on being given pharmaceuticals for your condition. In dentistry, intervention is the only real ‘cure’ for painful conditions. Diagnosing some dental conditions can take time, but it is important that your symptoms are not distorted by overuse of painkillers and antibiotics, so trust your dentist and do not delay recommended treatment.

If you have any questions, contact us at The Dentist at 70 Pitt Street, via email: or by phoning (02) 92326367.

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Tijana Fisher is a dentist, a wife and a mum (not in order of importance, of course)! She loves her life because she has been blessed with great variety and complete absence of the mundane. Every day, she puts on her different hats and slips into her different roles, all thoroughly enjoyable and challenging. She loves writing and sharing her knowledge (and opinion) with others. She also loves hearing other points of view, even if polar opposites to hers. This makes life rich and interesting and even teaches her a thing or two!