A tooth infection, also known as an abscessed tooth, is when a pocket of pus is formed in an area close to the tooth or at the root, and it is caused by a bacterial infection. The most common reasons for developing a tooth infection are:
- Tooth decay: if a cavity reaches the pulp or the nerve tissue inside your tooth, it can become infected and cause an abscess.
- Injuries: if you have an accident that fractured your tooth or that caused inflammation of the nerve tissue inside the tooth, it can lead to it forming an abscess.
- Previous dental work: sometimes dental work isn’t performed properly, leaving behind decaying dental tissue that continues to spread unknowingly, or maybe nerve damage was caused by a sloppy technique.
Tooth infections can cause a lot of discomforts, they are usually quite painful, and the person will also present swelling in the area, as well as sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages.
It is important to know that tooth infections can be dangerous if left untreated, since they can spread to nearby areas of the body, including your brain. So, if you get a tooth infection, don’t wait to see a dentist.
It’s important to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent an infection from spreading. Part of the treatment for the infection will include an antibiotic to help kill the bacteria that is causing it.
Which antibiotics are used for these infections?
Some tooth infections can be solved just by draining the abscess and don’t need an antibiotic to continue the healing process, other cases might require a root canal treatment or the extraction of the tooth. However, in some cases an antibiotic is needed when certain conditions are present:
- If the infection is severe and treatment of the tooth alone won’t solve the problem.
- If the infection has already begun to spread to other areas of the head.
- If the person has a weakened immune system.
Depending on what type of bacteria is causing your tooth infection, your dentist will prescribe a certain antibiotic. There are several types of these medications that have different mechanisms to fight off and kill bacteria.
However, the most commonly used kind of antibiotics is those of the penicillin class, for example, penicillin or amoxicillin. Another antibiotic that is used often and prescribed with penicillin is metronidazole, which would cover a broader bacterial spectrum.
Although penicillin antibiotics are very widely used as the treatment for tooth infections, a lot of people are allergic to them. So if you’ve had any type of allergic reaction to any medication before, it’s very important that you tell your dentist about it.
For those that are allergic to penicillin, the most common options are clindamycin or erythromycin.
What’s the dosage and for how long?
Normally antibiotics in these cases need to be taken for seven to ten days, and how many times a day depends on the antibiotics.
It’s very important that you follow the instructions given to you by either the pharmacist or dentist on how to take the medication. Cutting it short, even if the symptoms disappear, will allow the surviving bacteria to restart the infection and it will become harder to treat again.