antibiotic use

Case Study: Measuring Antibiotic Use by Dentists

Antibiotic use is common in dentistry, but its use isn’t well understood in both general and restorative contexts. A recent study evaluated the duration and type of antibiotic prescriptions. When we better understand how antibiotics are used for dental procedures, we can evaluate if and how they are over- or under-utilized.

In the study, antibiotic use was compared across dental specialties. This included:

The data used in this study was gathered by examining pharmacy benefits manager claims for over 80 million Americans’ in 2015.

Benefits of Studying Dentists’ Prescribing Habits

Antibiotics are often overprescribed, resulting in both unnecessary costs and reduced effectiveness. Reduced effectiveness is particularly concerning. We now know that extended antibiotic use can contribute to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Each year in the United States, these types of bacteria claim more than 23,000 lives and cause two million illnesses.

The CDC and other organizations are working to reduce prescribing habits, but unfortunately some dentists are still over-prescribing antibiotics. In order to educate the industry on the dangers associated with this, this study worked to find the specific habits of dentists.

Data Shows High Prescription Rates

The study shows that during the time studied, dentists prescribed over 2.9 million antibiotic prescriptions. This is more than many other medical fields.

Prescribing habits included:

  • A 7 to 10 day prescription
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • Primarily amoxicillin, clavulanate, and clindamycin

The most prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotic was amoxicillin.

For prosthodontics, the most common antibiotics included:

  • Amoxicillin (Used in approximately 64% of dental restorations.)
  • Doxycycline and clindamycin (Used in approximately 10% of procedures.)

Understanding Antibiotic Use Is Critical for the Dental Industry

As we begin to better understand the results of long-term antibiotic use, it’s important to know how the dental industry prescribes. This study focused on prescribing habits, without implying over use. However, it does show the potential for over-use.

There have been other studies that do suggest that dentists are over-prescribing antibiotics. One such study in the UK found that only 19% of antibiotics prescribed by general dental practices followed clinical guidelines. Another oral surgery-based study in the UK found that only 30% of antibiotic prescriptions met guidelines.

Education is an important part of dentistry, particularly regarding antibiotic prescriptions and appropriate guidelines. Due to the potential severity of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it’s critical that we focus on meeting guidelines for all antibiotic prescriptions, and only using when necessary. Patient health is priority, which includes antibiotic use.

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