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81 Percent Of Antibiotics Prescribed By Dentists Prior To Dental Procedures Are Unnecessary

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A large percentage of antibiotics prescribed to patients prior to a dental procedure are not aligned with national guidelines. The finding is significant because dentists are behind 10 percent of antibiotic prescriptions in the United States.   ( Michael Larsson | Pixabay )

Researchers of a new study have found that 81 percent of antibiotics prescribed by dentists to prevent infections prior to dental visits are unnecessary.

81 Percent Of Dental Prescription Not Aligned With National Guidelines

The findings are important since dentists are responsible for 10 percent of all antibiotic prescriptions in the United States.

In a study published in JAMA Network Open, Katie Suda, associate professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy at the UIC College of Pharmacy, and colleagues used Truven, a national integrated health claims database to analyze more than 168,000 dental visits that occurred between the years 2011 and 2015.

More than 90 percent of these visits involved a procedure that possibly warranted taking antibiotic ahead of time.

The researchers looked at the antibiotic prescriptions dispensed prior to dental visits and compared this with the number of high-risk cardiac patients, the only patients recommended by national guidelines to take antibiotics prior to a dental procedure.

Suda and colleagues found that 81 percent of the prescriptions were not aligned with the national guidelines and were provided for people without high-risk cardiac conditions.

"More than 80% of antibiotics prescribed for infection prophylaxis before dental visits were unnecessary. Implementation of antimicrobial stewardship in dental practices is an opportunity to improve antibiotic prescribing for infection prophylaxis," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published on May 31.

Dangers Of Prescribing Unnecessary Antibiotics

Prescribing unnecessary antibiotics expose patients to unwanted side effects and even helps contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Drug resistance happens when pathogens develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Infections linked to antibiotic-resistant superbugs can be difficult and even impossible to treat.

Figures from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that at least 2 million people in the United States are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Of these, 23,000 die.

A report commissioned by the UK government revealed that antibiotic resistant superbugs will be deadlier than cancer by the year 2050.

"Use of preventive antibiotics in these patients opens them up to the risks associated with antibiotic use — increasing bacterial resistance and infections, for example — when the evidence used to develop the guidelines suggests that the risks outweigh the benefits in most patients," Suda said.

In the study, researchers found that amoxicillin and clindamycin were among the most frequently prescribed antibiotics by dentists. Clindamycin, however, was more likely to be unnecessarily prescribed than amoxicillin.

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