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Do NOT Use Expired Amoxicillin For Dental Infections

Updated: Oct 27

We do NOT recommend taking expired amoxicillin if you've a dental infection or abscess because it has lost potency and you may overdose if you take extra.


amoxicillin

To be clear, the best thing you can do is see your dentist and get a brand new prescription.


Consequences of taking expired amoxicillin

You probably won't get sick from taking expired amoxicillin but you also won't get the full effect that you're looking for.

  • It begins to lose potency once it's past the expiry date.

  • It could also trigger antibiotic resistance from the bacteria which can be dangerous.


If you try to take more to overcompensate for the decreased efficacy, you run the risk of overdosing which is dangerous/harmful.


Decreased potency

Since this antibiotic loses its potency and effectiveness once it expires, it will most likely be an insufficient dose to fight the abscess in your mouth. That means taking it won't do very much for you.


Below is research data which compared the amount of bacteria for non-expired amoxicillin vs expired one.


table showing amount of bacteria from using expired vs non-expired amoxicillin

For the most part, the unexpired amoxicillin had much more incidences of less bacteria than the expired experimental group. In the 35mg concentration of antibiotics, there were nearly 3x as many bacteria present in the expired medication.


What we're trying to say is that your infection most likely won't go away by taking this medication. It will not give you the effect that you're looking for.


Antibiotic resistance

There is a risk of developing antibiotic resistant bacteria if you take amoxicillin that has already expired.


How that happens: Since the antibiotic is no longer as potent, it means that the bacteria which is causing your tooth infection can survive it and acquire resistance to it.


What it means for you: If the bacteria develop a resistance to the antibiotic, it means when you finally decide to see the dentist and they prescribe you unexpired amoxicillin, it may not work. Typically antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria will need to be treated at a hospital.


Ultimately, this may end up being a lot more complicated and costly for you by inadvertently taking this medication beyond its best by date.


What if I just take more of it?

Please do not try to take extra doses of amoxicillin while thinking that you can make up for its decrease in potency. That is dangerous because you can easily overdose since you don't know how much you're actually taking. That in itself is unsafe and can potentially be extremely hazardous to your health so we recommend against it.


Overdose symptoms:

  • cloudy or bloody urine

  • decreased urination

  • swelling of any part of the body

  • confusion

  • nausea

  • vomiting


Should I take expired amoxicillin?

You should not be taking expired amoxicillin because you shouldn't have any of it in the first place. According to MedlinePlus, all unused amoxicillin should be disposed of within 14 days.


That means if you didn't finish taking it or you had some of the antibiotic left over, you should've gotten rid of it within 2 weeks. There are proper medication disposal procedures by the FDA if you visit their site.


They recommend bringing the amoxicillin that is expired to a Drug Take Back Location.


When does it expire?

All medications expire and antibiotics are no different. On average, amoxicillin should expire within 1-2 years of their manufacture date.


Signs that it may have expired:

  • Expiration label. The most obvious sign is to check the label for the expiration date. All of them should be dated as it is a part of FDA regulations.

  • Pills look distorted. If the pills look damaged or distorted in anyway, you should consider them unfit for consumption. Improper storage in a heated/humid place can cause the outer layer of the capsule to melt.


amoxicillin expiration label on bottle

If you don't see an expiration date for whatever reason... you should assume that it is expired. Sometimes people will move medications from one bottle to another and that may be why it isn't there.


Better alternative

A safer and more effective alternative to taking expired amoxicillin if you have a tooth infection is to just see your dentist. If your tooth is indeed infected, they will happily give you a prescription for a fresh batch of amoxicillin that isn't past its due date.


However, we're not trying to rain on your parade but there are very few types of oral infections that will go away simply by taking antibiotics. Most of these conditions require some type of dental treatment such as an extraction, root canal, or even draining a swollen abscess. It all depends on what is causing the infection.


Do you even know why and how it got infected in the first place?


You probably don't which is why we highly recommend seeing your dentist for a consultation so that you can get a diagnosis and get proper treatment. That is the only way to permanently eliminate a dental abscess.

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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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