Oral & Vision Health Blog

What is Antibiotic Prophylaxis?

At your last visit to the dentist, he or she may have suggested an antibiotic prophylaxis. While that sounds like a complicated term, it simply means receiving antibiotic treatment prior to a dental procedure. This process is a preventive step some dentists take to fight infection in their patients.


Any treatment that leaves an open wound exposes your body to bacteria. With dental work, these exposed areas are in your mouth, which is full of bacteria. The medicine keeps the germs from traveling to other parts of your body. When bacteria enters your blood it can lead to an infection. In some patients with underlying heart conditions, this could turn into an illness called infective endocarditis (IE), which is the inflammation of the heart.

How does it work?

Your doctor will write you a prescription, which may be taken by mouth or injection. The medicine is usually a single dose that occurs an hour or so before your procedure.

Which procedures may require preventive medicine?

  • Routine dental procedures, such as cleanings, fillings and sealants, do not typically require this type of care.
  • More in depth dental work, such as root canals and oral surgery, does require antibiotic prophylaxis.

Who needs antibiotic prophylaxis?

  • Patients who have a high risk of developing IE. This includes people who have previously suffered with IE, people who were born with a heart defect and those who have received a heart transplant.
  • Patients who have a higher risk of immune infections.

A dentist will also prescribe medication to otherwise healthy patients at their discretion as it minimizes their risk of infection. It also ensures the safety of patients who may have undiagnosed health problems.

Antibiotic treatments are a simple and effective tool to keep your smile healthy. If you are prescribed preventive medicine before your next dental treatment, don’t be shy! Discuss any questions you have with your dentist.


Oral Health tips free video