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Why Antibiotics Are Not Always The Answer

Have you ever had a cold and asked your doctor to prescribe antibiotics? In this day and age, we tend to think that antibiotics can cure anything, but many commonly held ideas about antibiotics are not true. Let’s look at some of those:


Myth #1: Antibiotics are a cure


Your immune system is what cures you. Antibiotics only help slow down the bacterial invaders so your immune system can catch up. Plus, antibiotics only work against bacteria--viral infections like the common cold can’t be helped with antibiotics.


Myth #2: Antibiotics are a substitute for dental treatment


As the antibiotics slow down bacterial growth, your symptoms may become less or go away altogether. But because things like food go into your mouth and because your mouth connects to other parts of your body, there is no way to make it a bacteria free environment. Oral bacteria will continue to leak into the problem area until you have dental treatment to correct the underlying problem. Don’t be fooled! Just because it doesn’t hurt, does not mean that nothing’s wrong.


Myth #3: If one antibiotic doesn’t solve the problem, just try a different one


This one does have some merit. Sometimes bacteria are more susceptible to one type of antibiotic over another. However, we are seeing more and more “superbugs” that do not respond to treatment with antibiotics. Multiple antibiotics seem to increase the chances of developing drug-resistant bacteria. So it may be necessary to do a culture to determine which antibiotic most affects the bacteria that you have in order to best treat  you.


So when should you have an antibiotic?


In an otherwise healthy adult, antibiotics are often not needed. Research shows that up to 60% of human infections resolve on their own after the cause of the infection is removed. Most dental infections clear up two (2) to seven (7) days after dental treatment has removed the source of the infection. 


If an area of infection is so swollen that dental treatment cannot be performed until some of the infection clears up or if you have symptoms of a systemic infection, an antibiotic will be used to assist your body’s immune system. (You will often see this as wide-spread facial swelling.) Your dentist will review your healthy history and your specific case to determine if you need antibiotics. Don’t be surprised if he or she recommends treatment rather than a prescription.

Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.


If you are experiencing the symptoms of a dental problem and do not have a dentist, Dr. Robb invites you to join her practice. Call 440-960-1940 or contact her via her website at www.drjrobb.com. She’s saving a seat for you!


Jennifer G. Robb, DMD is a general dentist located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd. W, Lorain, OH 44053.