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Antibiotics Overuse: What NOT to Do Before Your Next Dental Appointment…

Dental Patient

Story at-a-glance -

  • In 2007, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) no longer recommended the use of antibiotics in routine dental procedures
  • However, many dentists still widely prescribe antibiotics for routine dental procedures, and are simply not following the updated AHA and ADA recommendations
  • When physicians prescribe antibiotics for unnecessary conditions, it can promote the natural mutation of common bacteria, ultimately resulting in the creation of new, resistant strains
  • Antibiotic resistance has become a serious problem, causing life-threatening diseases. This article lists several types of bacteria that have become resistant to this commonly prescribed drug
  • Support your oral health with holistic dental strategies listed below

Researchers at the University of Otago, in Dunedin, New Zealand compared impacted third molar extractions in the same patient with and without antibiotic prophylaxis. Ninety-five patients were divided into two groups and served as their own control, receiving antibiotics for one surgery and placebo for the other.

No significant differences were observed between test and placebo for pain, swelling, temperature, or trismus. Post-operative infections occurred in just two percent of the 380 total extractions. Differences between the groups were not significant.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

In 2007, the American Heart Association (AHA) stated that for most people, taking antibiotics for routine dental procedures was no longer recommended. Based on this recommendation, the American Dental Association (ADA) followed suit that same year, changing its prophylactic antibiotic protocol.

Prior to 2007, patients with nearly every type of congenital heart defect received antibiotics one hour before dental procedures or operations on the mouth, throat, gastrointestinal, genital, or urinary tract.

Today, however, antibiotics are only recommended for patients who have:

  • An artificial heart valve or who have had a heart valve repaired with artificial material
  • A history of endocarditis
  • Certain congenital heart defects
  • A heart transplant with abnormal heart valve function

But many dentists still widely prescribe antibiotics for routine dental procedures, and are simply not following the updated AHA and ADA recommendations.

What most dentists don't realize is that harmful bacteria from your mouth can get into your bloodstream at any time. Simply flossing or brushing your teeth, or even chewing food can increase the transfer of bacteria into your blood. The truth is, practicing healthy dental hygiene will do more to protect you from bacteria getting into your bloodstream than antibiotics ever will.

The Consequence of Antibiotics Overuse

The routine use of antibiotics in dentistry, for example prophylactically for cleanings and for pre and post-surgical procedures, was the ADA standard of care for many decades and is still widespread today. Many natural health experts believe that dentistry is the medical discipline guilty of some of the most antibiotics abuse.

When physicians prescribe antibiotics for unnecessary conditions, several negative consequences happen. First, the overuse of antibiotics promotes the natural mutation of common bacteria, ultimately resulting in the creation of new, resistant strains. In fact, health experts around the world blame the abuse of antibiotic drugs for today's epidemic of superbugs.

But new, drug-resistant bacteria are not the only drawback of over-prescribing antibiotics. You have a chance of having an adverse reaction anytime you take an antibiotic, and antibiotics also deplete your body of the necessary beneficial bacteria in your intestines that properly digests your food and protects your body from pathogens.

Don't get me wrong, antibiotics can be VERY useful when you need to treat resistant bacterial infection. When used properly, in the correct contexts and with responsibility, antibiotics can and do save lives that are threatened by bacterial infections. But they will only remain effective if urgent changes are made to curb the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and disease… and this will only happen with a serious reduction in their use now.

So if your dentist is still prescribing you antibiotics for routine dental procedures, you may want to seriously consider not filling that prescription. Make sure you floss and brush your teeth regularly, especially immediately before you go to the dentist as this will dramatically reduce the bacterial concentration in your mouth.

Some Common Drug Resistant Bacteria

Here is a list of various bacteria that are already resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics:

  • Acinetobacter: A bacteria found in soil and water that often causes infections in seriously ill hospital patients.
  • Anthrax: Spread by infected animals or potentially bioterrorist weapons.
  • Gonorrhea: A sexually transmitted disease.
  • Group B Streptococcus: A common bacteria in newborns, the elderly and adults with other illnesses.
  • Klebsiella pneumonia: A bacteria that can lead to pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound and surgical site infections and meningitis.
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): A superbug that can be so difficult to treat, it can easily progress from a superficial skin infection to a life-threatening infection in your bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves, lungs, or surgical wounds.
  • Neisseria meningitides: One of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis in children and young adults.
  • Shigella: An infectious disease caused by Shigella bacteria.
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae: A leading cause of pneumonia, bacteremia, sinusitis, and acute otitis media (AOM).
  • Tuberculosis (TB): Both “multi-drug resistant” and “extensively drug-resistant” forms of TB are now being seen.
  • Typhoid fever: A life-threatening illness caused by the Salmonella Typhi bacteria.
  • Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE): Infection with the Enteroccocci bacteria that often occurs in hospitals and is resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic.
  • Vancomycin-Intermediate/Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VISA/VRSA): Various strains of staph bacteria that are resistant to vancomycin.

You can see from this list that antibiotic resistance is not isolated to a few obscure bacteria. It is a very real, and growing, problem.

Your Dietary Choices Also Contribute to Rising Antibiotic Resistance

Compounding the problem is the fact that antibiotics are also widely over-used in agriculture. In fact, agricultural uses account for about 70 percent of all antibiotic use in the US, so it's a MAJOR source of human antibiotic consumption.

Animals are often fed antibiotics at low doses for disease prevention and growth promotion, and those antibiotics are transferred to you via meat, and even via the manure used as crop fertilizer. So, reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is yet another reason for making sure you're only eating grass-fed, organically-raised meats.

So keep in mind that in addition to enjoying better health, becoming an educated consumer and selecting organic meats over conventionally-raised meats will also help quell the rise of antibiotic-resistant disease.

One Holistic Dentist's Story

So you may be asking, what nutrition and supplementation will help you have a good outcome from any dental procedure? My recommendations are the same I would make for good oral health and healthy teeth. You should:

  • Find out your nutritional type, and eat accordingly. This will tell you which foods are ideal for your unique biochemistry.
  • Eat at least one-third of your food raw.
  • Avoid processed foods, sugar, refined flour, and all artificial flavorings, colorings, and artificial sweeteners. Instead, seek out locally grown foods that are in-season.
  • Enjoy fermented foods like natto, kefir, and cultured veggies.
  • Make sure you eat enough healthy fats, including those from animal sources like omega-3 fat, and reduce your intake of omega-6 from vegetable oils.

Some Basics of Holistic Dentistry

  1. You should first floss your teeth regularly. Ideally, after every meal. The best floss would be non-waxed type.
  2. Then you can use a dry Periodontal Health Brush (715-597-3935 to order). Blot the brush at a 45-degree angle at the gum line about 20 times in each area around the mouth. Start behind the teeth first.
  3. Keep your toothbrush clean by soaking it in a capful of hydrogen peroxide once a week. This is more than sufficient to kill the bacteria that normally accumulate in the brush.
  4. Next, it would be helpful to use a Water Pik to remove any food particles that you might have missed with the above cleaning.
  5. This step is one of the most important. Do NOT use regular toothpaste. Most of it has fluoride -- which clearly is a poison and not intended for human use. Instead use a mixture of six parts of baking soda to one part of real salt or sea salt. Place them in a blender and mix for 30 seconds then place in a container to use.
  6. Wet the tip of your index finger and place a SMALL amount of the salt and soda mixture on the gums. Starting with the upper outside gums and then the inside of the upper, followed by the lower outside of the gums then the lower inside. Spit out the excess. After 15 minutes rinse your mouth. This mixture is incredibly effective at killing the bacteria and parasites that cause plaque.

Some Final Thoughts on Antibiotic Use

You can help yourself and your community by only purchasing antibiotic-free meats and other foods, and using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. As illustrated by the study above, routine administration of antibiotics for dental procedures is typically not necessary, and is yet another instance where antibiotics are overprescribed.

Avoiding all unnecessary antibiotics is an important step that I urge everyone to take, even though ultimately the problem of antibiotic-resistance needs to be stemmed through public policy on a nationwide level.

In the end, we're all in this fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria together, and the more people who get involved in stopping the spread of unnecessary antibiotic use, the better. You can do your part by joining the growing number of people who just say no to antibiotics, except when they are absolutely needed.