Pre-Op Antibiotics Prevent Infection for Wisdom Teeth Surgery, Study Finds

October 30, 2007

Patients who have their wisdom teeth pulled and do not take antibiotics before surgery are twice as likely to get an infection after the surgery than those who take a single dose of antibiotics shortly before surgery, says Eastman Dental Center researchers Yan-Fang Ren, DDS, PhD, MPH and Hans Malmstrom, DDS. The Eastman Dental Center is part of the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Their findings are published this month in the Journal of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

Surgical extraction of impacted of wisdom teeth—or third molars—is the procedure carried out most commonly in oral surgery and general dental practices around the world,” said Ren. “Inflammation and infection associated with bacterial contamination are the most common complications after third molar surgery.” Because infection after surgery is usually accompanied by debilitating pain and functional impairment, clinicians have long sought effective ways to prevent complications after third molar surgery.

“Many clinical trials have been conducted in the past to investigate the controversial topic of using antibiotics before wisdom teeth surgery, but most of the published trials involved a sample size too small to support a conclusive outcome,” Ren explained. Through an extensive, meticulous process explained in the Journal, Ren and Malmstrom analyzed 20 published clinical trials involving nearly 3,000 patients.

The findings of this study may serve as a guideline for dentists and oral surgeons for prescribing antibiotics after wisdom teeth surgery. “We do not advocate a universal prescription of antibiotics for every third molar surgery,” Ren explained, “but for patients who have risks for postoperative infections, a single dose of antibiotics before surgery is probably more effective than taking several days of antibiotics after the surgery is completed.”  Drs. Ren and Malmstrom hope that this study could help dentists be more purposeful when prescribing antibiotics and to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use.

A world leader in residency training and research initiatives, Eastman Dental Center each year treats thousands of Rochester-area patients by providing a full range of general and specialized dentistry including pediatrics, periodontology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and prosthodontics. Established in 1915, the Eastman Dental Center is the only major post doctoral dental education, research and clinical institution in the U.S. within an academic medical center. The legacy of George Eastman continues to thrive with its extensive community outreach program helping underserved residents.

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