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Are Antibiotics Necessary After Dental Surgery?

antibiotic pills spilled out of the pill bottle

As in general medicine, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed in dentistry. In this article, we offer a brief summary of when dental surgery requires antibiotics, and when it doesn’t. For the purpose of this blog post, our working definition of “dental surgery” includes invasive dental procedures, such as a tooth extraction, fillings and repairs, root canal therapy, dental crowns, gum disease treatment, and dental implants.

When Antibiotics Are Usually Not Required

Typically, antibiotics wouldn’t be required for routine procedures, such as dental X-rays, a dental examination, a routine dental cleaning, or cosmetic treatment (like orthodontics, teeth whitening, etc.). Additionally, dry socket will not always be treated with antibiotics. Dry socket occurs when the clot that is supposed to form after a tooth extraction or wisdom teeth removal doesn’t form properly or is dislodged early. This common complication causes significant oral pain and discomfort but is not necessarily an infection. However, if it was caused by a preexisting bacterial infection or if it develops into an infection, antibiotics will be necessary.

When Dental Surgery May Require Antibiotics


Every patient has oral bacteria that could cause an infection if it enters their bloodstream. For most healthy patients, their immune system protects them from such an occurrence and antibiotics are only prescribed after dental surgery if an infection occurs as a complication. However, some procedures require antibiotics as part of the treatment, such as in-office during root canal therapy to flush out bacteria in a decayed tooth, in-office and at home if an abscess has spread to neighboring teeth and/or the jawbone, and in-office and at home during gum disease treatment.

Antibiotic Prophylaxis

Under the direction of a patient’s dentist and/or oral surgeon, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed prior to or after an invasive dental procedure even if an infection is not currently present to prevent an infection from occurring. This is called “antibiotic prophylaxis”. Discuss with Dr. Maldonado, Dr. Furman, and our knowledgeable team whether antibiotic prophylaxis is appropriate for your unique situation!

Some patients have pre-existing conditions which make them more susceptible to infection, or conditions which present a serious health threat if infection occurs. These conditions include, but are not limited to, patients with certain heart ailments and those with compromised immune systems due to cancer, chemotherapy treatment, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and chronic steroid use. Some circumstances may even warrant antibiotics prior to a routine cleaning! Interestingly, the American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons no longer recommend antibiotic prophylaxis for all patients with joint replacements.

Negative Effects of Too Many Antibiotics

We take into account our patients’ medical history and unique health needs when we create your customized treatment plan so we don’t overprescribe antibiotics! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80 million antibiotic prescriptions filled each year are unnecessary. Over-prescription of antibiotics has led to an increasing amount of bacteria that is difficult to kill, even with the strongest antibiotic treatment available. A few conditions that have become more resistant to antibiotic treatment include tuberculosis, certain skin infections, and pneumococcal infections that cause sinus infections, ear infections, pneumonia, and meningitis. In addition to creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, antibiotics can cause uncomfortable and even dangerous side effects to a patient. Good bacteria in your gut can be wiped out by an round of antibiotics, leading to diarrhea, dehydration, and intestinal infections. Other possible side effects include nausea, an allergic reaction, cramping, vomiting, and more (depending on the drug).

Your Oral Health Is Our Priority!

Your oral health, and thus your safety and comfort, is important to us here at South Texas Smiles. If you have additional questions about antibiotics, dental surgery, or any of our dental services, we are here to help. And if you are due for a routine checkup, schedule your appointment today.

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T: (210) 614-3898
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Ana Maldonado, DMD

10007 Huebner Rd., Ste. 103 D
San Antonio, TX 78240

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