In recognition of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November), a World Health Organization initiative, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is shining a light on the issue of antibiotic resistance which affects not only its 17,000 members but also other dentists and patients worldwide.
Dental prescriptions account for approximately 10 per cent of the total number of antibiotic prescriptions every year around the world, and studies have demonstrated that when it comes to severe dental infections in Australia, 11 per cent are resistant to penicillin, and 13 per cent are resistant to multiple antibiotics which presents significant treatment challenges.
As a show of its solidarity, the ADA has signed the WHO’s international pledge to address the problem.
“The ADA has signed the international pledge to deal with the issue which results in 700,000 deaths worldwide annually from antimicrobial resistance across a range of health issues,” said Dr Sue-Ching Yeoh, an oral medicine specialist and chair of the ADA’s Dental Therapeutics Committee.
“It affects our profession because of the challenges dental clinicians face in treating these infections, and because penicillin-resistant dental infections are associated with longer stays in hospital.”
So, what does this mean for patients?
“The most effective management of dental infection and toothache is treatment of the dental issue—whether it’s fillings, periodontal treatment for gum disease, root canal therapy or extraction,” Dr Yeoh said.
“In most cases, antibiotics should only be used as an adjunct to these dental treatments, not as definitive management on their own, but as a device for stopping infection in tandem with dental procedures—otherwise it’s just a bandaid measure.”
Dr Yeoh added that all prescribers, including dentists, have a responsibility to prescribe antibiotics judiciously and appropriately to minimise the contribution towards antibiotic resistance.
“The pledge we’ve signed indicates the ADA’s commitment to improving the use and prescription of antibiotics, to encourage the dental community to contribute to global efforts to tackle antibiotic resistance.
“Antimicrobial stewardship is of great concern to the profession and most dentists understand it’s something always to be acutely aware of when treating and prescribing. As a peak body, we need to keep addressing it as it is a significant issue for dentists.”
For more on what the ADA is doing to address the issue visit their website.