It’s time to act responsibly

Dental practitioners should only consider the use of antibiotics when the drainage of an acute dental infection cannot be achieved, says the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK). The FGDP(UK) is keen to highlight the ineffectiveness of antimicrobials on oral abscesses and the need for practitioners to ensure that they act responsibly to help slow the global development of antibiotic resistance.

The FGDP(UK) has collaborated with the Association of Clinical Oral Microbiologists (ACOM) and the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy on a Thunderclap initiative, launched to coincide with European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November 2013. The Thunderclap, which harnesses individual’s social media networks to spread messages, asked supporters to pledge that ‘where a dental infection needs drainage, this is provided before considering the use of antibiotics’. This pledge has reached more than 30,000 people.

Dr Nikolaus Palmer, FGDP(UK) board member and editor of the Faculty’s publication Antimicrobial Prescribing for General Dental Practitioners, believes that dental practitioners needs to reflect carefully on their use of antibiotics. He says: ‘The FGDP(UK)’s evidence-based guidance sets out sensible protocols for dental practitioners when considering the need to prescribe antimicrobials. Those that follow this guidance will already be aware that the majority of uncomplicated dental swellings can be successfully treated by removal of the source of the infection by drainage of the associated abscess. It is vital that dental practitioners recognise their role in helping to reduce the development of antimicrobial resistance.’

Andrew Smith, Professor of Clinical Bacteriology at the University of Glasgow Dental School and chair of the ACOM, says: ‘Prudent antimicrobial prescribing is as important for the management of oral infections as it is for other body sites. We hope that we will reduce the need for unnecessary antibiotic treatment by urging all dentists to think about the use of dental surgical skills before prescribing antibiotics.’

Antimicrobial resistance has become a worldwide problem over the last few decades and now constitutes a major threat to public health. Dentists working in the NHS in England prescribe nearly 10% of all oral antimicrobials in the primary care setting, and all antibiotics prescribed in dentistry can have an adverse effect on the rest of the body’s microbial flora.

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