Is Antibiotic Prescribing by Dentists an Overlooked Problem?

December 27, 2017

When looking for a potential cause of community-acquired Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), dental prescribing is often a large and overlooked blind spot, according to a recent report.

A report done in partnership between the Emerging Infections Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments found that upward of 15% of patients with community-acquired CDI who reported taking antibiotics were prescribed the drugs by their dentist within the 12 weeks before illness.

The report also noted that dentists routinely prescribe antibiotics to their patients without follow-up. In 2013, dentists wrote prescriptions for a staggering 24.5 million courses of antibiotics, or 77.5 prescriptions per 1000 people. This accounts for approximately 10% of all antibiotic prescriptions in the outpatient setting.

Dentists often give their patients antibiotics to manage oral infections and for prophylaxis before dental visits for patients meeting certain clinical criteria. Recent guidance on who should receive antibiotic prophylaxis before dental visits has changed since then, but it's unknown whether dentists have changed their prescribing habits as a result.

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