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What are the Most Commonly Prescribed Tooth Infection Antibiotics?

By Susan Grindstaff
Updated May 17, 2024
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The most commonly prescribed tooth infection antibiotics are typically penicillin and cephalexin; however, neither of these are suitable for those who are allergic to penicillin. People who suffer from such allergies are usually prescribed clindamycin. Tetracycline and doxycycline are not considered as effective as clindamycin, but are also sometimes prescribed for those who are allergic to penicillin. Antibiotic dosages are typically determined by the severity of the infection and the overall health of the patient.

Penicillin is probably the most widely prescribed antibiotic for tooth infections or abscesses. Many tooth infections are bacterial, and penicillin is considered especially effective in treating them. The drug works to destroy the bacterial cell wall, making it difficult for the bacteria to spread and grow. Some of the side effects of penicillin include diarrhea and nausea, while an allergy can cause rashes, difficulty breathing, and in severe cases, may even cause death.

Cephalexin is a drug that is part of a group of antibiotics referred to as cephalosporins, and they are similar to penicillin in many ways. Some of the side effects of cephalexin include vomiting, diarrhea, and headache. In addition, cephalexin has been linked to vaginitis and liver damage.

Clindamycin works by stopping bacterial growth. It is usually considered one of the more effective antibiotics for a tooth infection and is the most common choice of medication for those who are penicillin-allergic. Side effects of clindamycin include yellowing of the skin, joint pain, and changes in frequency and color of urination. In rare cases, it can cause a serious, sometimes fatal type of diarrhea called clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. This medication should probably not be taken by those who suffer liver disease or by women who are pregnant.

In instances of severe infection or abscess, antibiotic treatment alone is not always effective. In some cases, dentists may also attempt to drain the abscessed area, which is usually done by making a small incision in the infected area, then using suction to remove pus. In many cases, this procedure can accelerate the healing process and reduce pain and swelling.

Tooth infections can sometimes escalate into life-threatening conditions. If left untreated, the infection in an abscessed tooth can spread to the brain or other vital organs. In addition, repeated infections can sometimes lead to permanent damage to the heart, liver, and other organs. Some research indicates that repeated instances of tooth infection may also suppress the immune system.

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Discussion Comments
By anon967013 — On Aug 24, 2014

What antibiotic can I take for a dental abscess while on HRT medication i.e. kliogest?

By MrsWinslow — On Dec 13, 2011

I want to reiterate that no one should ever ignore tooth or gum infection symptoms - but especially pregnant women! A woman I worked with once suffered a miscarriage that the ER doc thought might have been caused by her serious gum infection.

Note that I mentioned the ER doc. Yep, she did not have medical or dental insurance. If she had, instead of running a probably thousand-dollar-plus ER bill that she couldn't pay (meaning the rest of us pay) just to lose her baby, she could have seen a dentist, been prescribed pregnancy-safe antibiotics, and delivered a healthy baby.

In another terrible case I heard about, a young boy's mother could not find a Medicaid dentist to treat him. He developed a brain infection. Again, instead of a simple dental visit, he would up in the hospital and ran up a six-figure cost - and died. I don't know all the answers here, but it seems to me that we all need to do a better job of taking care of the most vulnerable among us - preferably "before" they reach a fatal crisis.

By EdRick — On Dec 12, 2011

I had no idea that clindamycin was often prescribed for people with a penicillin allergy. I'm allergic to sulfa antibiotics, which always limits what I can be prescribed, whether as a tooth infection treatment or for something else.

Clindamycin is a go-to antibiotic for a lot of different conditions when someone has an allergy, I guess. The only problem is it's expensive! Better have insurance.

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