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Antibiotics for an Abscessed Tooth

Antibiotics for an Abscessed Tooth

Examples

Generic Name
amoxicillin
Generic Name Brand Name
clindamycin Cleocin
Generic Name Brand Name
erythromycin  
metronidazole Flagyl
penicillin  

How It Works

Antibiotics kill bacteria and are used to fight many types of infections. Antibiotics for an abscessed tooth are given in pill or liquid (oral) form, usually for a 7- to 10-day period.

Why It Is Used

A bacterial infection that causes an abscessed tooth must be treated to kill or prevent the further growth of bacteria, because a continuing bacterial infection may cause more serious disease, such as cellulitis. Antibiotics are used along with other treatment, which may include opening the root canal to drain the source of the abscess, lancing a swelling (gumboil) next to the tooth, or removing the tooth (extraction).

How Well It Works

Antibiotic treatment of an abscessed tooth, when used along with either a root canal treatment or extraction, is effective at stopping a bacterial infection in the jaw.

If the antibiotic is not effective at killing the bacteria, if you do not take the antibiotic for a long enough period of time, or if you don't also get dental treatment, the bacterial infection may return.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Fainting or lightheadedness.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Skin rash.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

It is important to take all of the antibiotics your dentist prescribes. Keep taking the medicine until it is gone, even after you start to feel better. Otherwise your bacterial infection may return.

Antibiotics cannot always kill bacteria (antibiotic resistance), in part because they are used too much or are used incorrectly. You can help prevent antibiotic resistance by taking all of your medicine as directed, even if you feel better after a few days. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, bacteria that are not killed in the first few days of treatment can grow stronger and become resistant to the antibiotic.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
Last Revised January 24, 2013

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