More than 80% of antibiotics prescribed by dentists are unnecessary: Study

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Many dentists have to hand out prescriptions. Source: Getty.

Dentists are responsible for writing a massive 10 per cent of all antibiotic prescriptions in the US – with the number remaining high in Australia and other parts of the world too – but a new study has found around 80 per cent of them are actually unnecessary.

In fact, patients who are taking the antibiotics without reason could even be causing themselves more health risks through side effects or antibiotic resistance.

Researchers, led by Katie Suda of the University of Illinois-Chicago, used a national health care claims database to examine 91,000 patients who received antibiotic prophylaxis – the practice of prescribing antibiotics before a dental visit – for just less than 170,000 dental visits from 2011 to 2015.

For 90 per cent of those visits, a procedure was performed that required antibiotic prophylaxis only for patients who had a high-risk cardiac condition. However, less than 21 percent of those people had the condition.

It meant that the study, published in JAMA Network Open, found 80.9 per cent of prescriptions weren’t necessary for the patients who received them.

“Preventive antibiotics in these patients gave them risks that outweighed the benefits,” Jessina McGregor of Oregon State University said, according to Science Daily.

Overall, researchers found unnecessary prescriptions were most prevalent in western US, on a regional basis, with 11,601 of the 13,735 prescriptions written (around 85 per cent) not in line with medical guidelines.

“Dental providers are very thoughtful when they develop care plans for their patients and there are many factors that inform dentists’ recommendations, but this study shows that there is an opportunity for dentists to reevaluate if necessary,” Susan Rowan of the Illinois-Chicago College of Dentistry added.

“I think dental providers should view this study, which is the first to look at preventive antibiotic prescribing for dental procedures, as a powerful call to action, not a rebuke.”

One major reason for the over-prescribing may be down to a big change to US guidelines, with some perhaps unaware of the new rules.

US dentistry rules published in 2007 – which were also tightened again in 2013 – stated only people with the highest risk should get pre-appointment pills.

In this study, researchers found the most commonly used antibiotics was clindamycin.

What do you think of these findings? Have you had prescriptions given to you ahead of dental procedures?

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