Can I Take Antibiotics Before my Dental Procedure?

If you are preparing for a dental procedure, one question that may be on your mind is whether or not you can/should take antibiotics before the procedure. It’s a question we receive often here at Bergen Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and there are two aspects of the topic to discuss:

  • Antibiotics prescribed by your dentist before your dental procedure
    Antibiotics you are currently taking for other reasons (i.e. a bacterial infection)

Pre-procedure antibiotics

For many years, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended that patients with heart conditions take antibiotics prior to just about any dental procedure. Why? Because certain procedures, such as a tooth extraction or a root canal, can allow bacteria into the bloodstream. For those who are susceptible, dental professionals commonly prescribed antibiotics to prevent life-threatening infection—called infective endocarditis.

In 2007, however, the AHA updated its recommendations, saying that many patients who would have previously been recommended to take antibiotics no longer need to and there is little proof that the preventative antibiotics did what they were supposed to do. For most patients, the risks of taking such preventative antibiotics outweigh the benefits. Today, AHA says that preventative antibiotics are still advised for patients at a higher risk of developing infective endocarditis, including those with:

  • Artificial heart valves
    A history of infective endocarditis
    Serious congenital heart conditions, such as unrepaired cyanotic congenital heart disease
    A cardiac transplant that develops a problematic heart valve

Bottom line: your dentist will prescribe an antibiotic prior to your surgical procedure if appropriate, but you may not need it. If you have congenital heart disease or another heart issue, talk with your dentist and cardiologist about what they recommend. (Read more about the topic in the Journal of the American Dental Association).

Antibiotics for another issue

What about antibiotics for an infection that is unrelated to your dental surgery, such as a sinus infection or an ear infection? If you’re currently taking antibiotics, it’s fine for you to keep taking them—as long as your doctor and dentist are aware. This is especially important for patients who might also require preventative antibiotics, as the American Dental Association says that these patients would need an antibiotic from a different class than the one the patient is already taking.

As always, communication is important. Make sure your doctor, dentist, and oral surgeon are aware of all medications you are taking so that they can ensure you’re taking a safe combination.

If you have questions about an upcoming dental procedure or would like to schedule a consultation, call us at one of our offices: Hackensack: 201.343.8297, Westwood: 201.664.5656, or Ridgewood: 201.444.4137. With all patients, we’ll go over standard procedures, including antibiotics, to make the entire process as comfortable as possible, whether your procedure is minor or major.