Antibiotics have played an integral role in medicine and dentistry over the last century. Like many other pharmaceuticals, their widespread use began with one notable experiment: Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928. This milestone laid the path for further discoveries and a deeper understanding of how the human body fights infection. An antibiotic impedes the growth of or destroys harmful microorganisms that the body may struggle to fight off. Penicillin, amoxicillin, and similar antibiotics have been true lifesavers, and have helped us overcome previously deadly diseases. However, antibiotics are not infallible. The more they are used, the more ineffective they can become. This is known as “Antibiotic Resistance.” This means that the antibiotics used to treat bacteria that cause diseases such as Strep Throat and Pneumonia are becoming less effective the more they are exposed. This is a significant problem that can lead to disastrous results. Fortunately, there is a growing movement in the medical community to fight antibiotic resistance known as Antibiotic Stewardship. This change in antibiotic protocol can help lessen the threat of antibiotic resistance by reducing prescriptions and ensuring that diseases remain susceptible to treatment.
A Growing Problem
Antibiotic resistance has been on the rise across the globe. As microorganisms are exposed more and more to antibiotics, they develop new responses and defenses to combat them. This evolution, in turn, makes them more difficult to treat. Diseases such as tuberculosis and blood poisoning, once thought to be handled by antibiotics, are again becoming a threat. According to the CDC, each year at least 2.8 million Americans get an antibiotic-resistant infection, leading to over 35,000 deaths. And that’s in a developed nation– places where antibiotics are easily accessible and can be purchased without a prescription only serve to exacerbate the problem, leading to countless deaths. However, this is just the beginning. There are a finite number of antibiotics that we know of, and as more diseases become resistant, our options to treat them wane. Eventually, at our current rate, we will reach a post-antibiotic world, where minor and common infections and diseases are once again deadly. A coordinated, united response is critical to combating antibiotic resistance and ensuring that we can treat diseases in the future.
Prevention and Response
While antibiotic resistance does occur naturally, it’s hyper-accelerated by overprescription, overuse, and inferior infection prevention. It’s paramount that we as a society reduce our usage of antibiotics to mitigate the development of resistance. The best way to do this is through Antibiotic Stewardship. This change in antibiotic protocol manifests as judicious use of antibiotics in an effort to reduce the development of drug-resistant bacteria. It means prescribing less, with more precise dosages to protect the integrity of the antibiotics used. While we cannot fully arrest antibiotic resistance, we can help slow its development.
Antibiotic Stewardship in Dentistry
While dentists and endodontists commonly use antibiotics to help treat infections in patients, we too are committed to antibiotic stewardship in an effort to reduce antibiotic resistance. At Central Ohio Endodontics, we make sure to only use antibiotics when necessary, and only prescribe the right antibiotic to fight the infection. We reserve the use of antibiotic prophylaxis, or preventative antibiotics, for patients who are at the highest risk of post-treatment complications and infections. We strive to use antibiotics responsibly and are committed to our role in antibiotic stewardship.