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Antibiotics for Tooth Infections

I have a toothache that has me so distracted I am having a hard time getting any work done. I am in the middle of a huge merger and DO NOT have time to see a dentist. I do have a doctor that will write me a prescription for just about anything. I just need to tell him what type of meds I need. Can you help me with that?


Dear B.W.,

Man grabbing his jaw in pain

First, I’m just going to say what your doctor is doing is not only against medical ethics but super dangerous. While I am sure that it is handy to have a doctor willing to do that, I do worry. That being said, an antibiotic will not solve your problem. Instead, it will just be a temporary reprieve. Once the antibiotics run out, your tooth infection will come back with a vengeance.

The only way that you can stop a tooth infection is by having a dentist physically go in and remove the infected pulp. This is because a tooth infection kills the tooth and there is no longer blood flow to the tooth, which means the antibiotic will have no effect on the root of the infection.

You have two choices in truly dealing with a tooth infection. The first is to have a root canal treatment where the dentist goes in and removes the infected pulp. From there you are generally given a dental crown. The good news is that this saves your tooth. It is always better to have as much natural tooth structure as possible.

The second option is if the tooth cannot be saved and the decay and infection have gotten too far. When that happens, the tooth has to be extracted and you will need to replace the tooth. If that happens, I recommend you get a dental implant to replace it. That is the closest to having a healthy natural tooth in your mouth again.

I know you are short on time, but if you let this spread, it can turn from a dental emergency to a medical one. Think about how close your jaw is to your brain and heart. People still die from tooth infections because they allow the infection to spread. I know you are busy, but I really do not want you to put this off. You could call the dentist and ask him to prescribe you an antibiotic, but it will only buy you a short period of time.

This blog is brought to you by Moline Dentist Dr. Thomas Goebel.

Should I Update My Dental Implants?

I have had my current dental implants since the late 1990s. There are two of them on my lower arch. I keep reading about the updates in the dental implants technology and materials and have lately been wondering if I should update mine for the newer materials, such as zirconia rather than titanium. What do you think?


Dear Pricilla,

Diagram of three phases of a dental implant: separate compoonent, implant screw in the bone, and the crown attached

It is wonderful that you keep up with the developments in the dental field. That combined with how long your dental implants are lasting tells me you take very good care of your smile. Do the developments that have taken place in recent years warrant you updating your current dental implants, though?

Replacing a dental implant is not as simple as taking out the old ones and switching them with the new ones. When the older implants are removed, some bone structure will go with them. This means you will need to have some bone grafting done in order to place the new dental implants. Then, once that has had time to heal, it will be another surgery to get the new implants followed by another period of healing while osseointegration takes place. Only then, will the implant crown be able to be placed. That is a LOT to go through when you have solid, functional dental implants.

Zirconia is tempting for many people because we love the idea of metal-free dental implants. I’m not saying don’t switch out. That, of course, is up to you. However, I would say that there is no evidence that the zirconia is either superior or inferior to the implants you currently have so it may not be worth the unnecessary surgery.

What to Look for With Dental Implant Failure

When you would want to take action is when the implants seem to be nearing the end of their life. Here are some things you can keep an eye out for when it comes to failing implants:

  • Discomfort and difficulty biting and chewing. This may signify a developing infection.
  • Pain and discomfort around the implant.
  • The implant shifting or feeling “loose”.
  • Gingival recession around the implant.
  • Swollen, inflamed gum tissue around the area.

If any of these symptoms occur I would consult with your implant dentist and evaluate whether it is time for a replacement.

This blog is brought to you by Moline Dentist Dr. Thomas Goebel.