Preventive Antibiotics at the Dentist Unnecessary for Patients with Prosthetic Joints

Mar 01, 2016, by Dr. Becky Coats

In the past, it was often recommended that patients with prosthetic joints, heart conditions, or other infection vulnerabilities should take antibiotics prior to any dental procedure, whether it’s a routine cleaning or a reconstructive dentistry procedure.

The primary concern was bacteremia, when bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream and travel through the body. This, it was thought, could lead to infections around prosthetic joints. However, a recent review of the risks has shown that antibiotics aren’t really recommended before dental procedures.

No Real Infection Risk

The first question that this American Dental Association panel asked was whether dental procedures really represented a risk to people with prosthetic joints. They looked at all the research about the potential link between dental procedures and prosthetic joint infections (PJI), and found that there was no good evidence that such a link existed. Three out of four studies they reviewed showed that there was no increased risk of PJI related to dental procedures, and the fourth actually showed that dental procedures reduced the risk of PJI.

Because these four studies were in such strong agreement, the panel agreed that, although the number of studies was small, future studies probably wouldn’t give different results.

Inherent Risks of Antibiotics

Next, the panel looked at the potential risks of antibiotics. One of the scariest concerns about the overuse of antibiotics is that it can lead to antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. These can make all infections, including PJI, more dangerous and harder to treat.

Another problem with using too many antibiotics is that it can damage symbiotic bacterial populations, making way for dangerous, invasive bacteria, such as Clostridium difficile, which causes digestive tract infections that can lead to deadly diarrhea and inflammation.

And, finally, there’s the issue of cost, which can be significant. According to a recent report, the use of antibiotics before dental procedures cost patients as much as $50 million in 2013.

Protect Yourself from Infections

Dental procedures are unlikely to cause PJI. In fact, they’re more likely to protect you from infections. In general, your immune system is better able to handle threats when it has fewer threats to deal with. The number of bacterial threats your body is dealing with is known as your bacterial load, and when you have chronic gum disease, your bacterial load can be very high, which increases your risk of all kinds of infections.

Good oral hygiene, regular dental visits, and treatment of dental infections like gum disease and abscessed teeth can all help protect you against infection. If you are looking for a Grapevine dentist to help protect your overall health, please call (817) 481-6888 for an appointment at Grapevine Dental Care today.