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Do I Have To Finish My Antibiotics After An Extraction?

If you were given antibiotics after a tooth extraction, the prudent decision would be to take them and finish the entire course of it. Your dentist prescribed them for you because they deemed it necessary for the success of your procedure.


antibiotics
antibiotics

If you don't take it or skip it all together, there will be consequences with potential adverse effects. You may complicate the recovery and potentially require additional treatment if the tooth socket gets re-infected.


Table of Contents:


Antibiotics are necessary

Prescribed antibiotics should be taken because they are a part of the overall treatment. People often think of them as an "extra" that goes along with the extraction but that is not true.


The treatment plan was an extraction WITH antibiotics. That means without them, the treatment would be incomplete. If your dentist thought that it wasn't necessary for your particular condition, you wouldn't have been prescribed any to begin with.


Benefits of taking it:

  • Decrease risk of infection. If the reason you needed the tooth taken out was due to severe infection with facial swelling, taking it will help eliminate the bacteria. It will also prevent your face from swelling back up in case some of the infection manages to escape detection.

  • Minimize chances of dry socket. Studies have shown that dry socket may be prevented by taking antibiotics. Or at the very least will decrease the chances of you getting it.


impacted wisdom tooth with gum flap
impacted wisdom tooth with gum flap

Guidelines aim to minimize prescription of antibiotics

An important point to understand is that the current guidelines and trends is to minimize the amount of antibiotic prescriptions. The reason is because of the rise of superbugs or antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, which greatly complicates treatment.


According to the CDC, 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. In other words, there is an overprescription of this medication. They're being given when it isn't even needed and do you know who one of the biggest culprits are? Dentists.


Therefore, in order to play our part and not contribute to this epidemic, dental professionals should strive to limit giving it out when it isn't absolutely needed.


How long to take antibiotics after tooth extraction?

Most antibiotics that are prescribed for dental purposes such as a tooth extraction or wisdom tooth removal, have a 7 day course. That means you will be taking the medication for seven days straight without any breaks or pauses in between.


Antibiotic

Duration

Amoxicillin

7 days

Amoxicillin with Clavulanic acid

7 days

Cephalexin

7 days

Clindamycin

7 days

Azithromycin

5 days

The most commonly prescribed antibiotic after extractions would be amoxicillin which should be taken for 7 days. However, if you are allergic to penicillin your dentist may give you Azithromycin (Z-pak) instead.


Note: Please be aware that the dosing schedule for azithromycin is for FIVE DAYS, which is different from all of the other listed medications.


What about wisdom teeth?

The protocol for taking antibiotics after wisdom teeth removal is the same for taking out any other teeth in your mouth. If you were given a prescription for them, you should take them and finish all of it as directed.


It is actually especially important to do so with your wisdom teeth (third molars) because dry socket has the highest chance of occuring in impacted lower wisdom teeth.


Do I have to finish the antibiotics?

Once you start taking antibiotics, you should finish all of it as you were directed. That is the only way to ensure maximum efficacy and to prevent recurrence of the infection.


A lot of people think that since they start feeling better after 2-3 days, they could stop taking it. However, that is not a wise decision because the typical 7 day dose of antibiotics requires all 7 days of it to be fully effective.


If you stop taking it, you may have a return of pain or swelling. The reason is because if there is a little bit of the bacteria that is left, they can repopulate and grow back to their original size.


The dosing schedule for the medication was determined by numerous clinical studies to be a safe time to stop taking antibiotics. If 2-3 days were enough, you wouldn't have been given 7 days worth of the pills.


Note: Stopping the prescription early is bad but skipping it from day one is even worse!


Takeaway

If you were prescribed antibiotics you should responsibly finish the entire course of it. That will ensure that you minimize the chances of post-operative complications.


If your dentist didn't think that you needed it, they wouldn't have prescribed you any in the first place. After all, the current guidelines aim to reduce the amount of prescriptions due to the rise of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.


Ultimately, how long you need to take the antibiotics for after your extraction would depend on how many days of it you were prescribed.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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