Antibiotics for Tooth Infection – Which Is the Most Effective?

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A dental infection typically starts as an annoying pain but can become a serious health issue if not taken seriously. Just 100 years ago, dental infections were a leading cause of death worldwide. Thanks to the improvements in oral hygiene, dentistry practice, and the development of antibiotics, dental conditions are now a more painful nuisance than serious conditions. Still, there are risks if left untreated. Antibiotics for tooth infections are a powerful solution to prevent the growth of bacteria; however, not all antibiotics used to treat dental infection are the same. In this article, we comprehensively examine using antibiotics for tooth infection.

Although made to tear and gnaw, the dental structure is quite sensitive. Without proper hygiene and regular maintenance, the mouth can become a hive for microbial activity, leading to enamel demineralization, gingival inflammation, and the destruction of periodontal tissues.

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  • More than 1 in 5 people have untreated dental caries.
  • 3 in 4 people will have at least one dental restoration.
  • 35% of Americans aged 30 to 90 will have periodontal disease.
  • 1 in 2600 Americans is hospitalized due to dental infection.

What Is a Tooth Infection?

This is an oral infection that occurs when bacteria invade the tooth and the surrounding tissues. Dental infection may result from tooth decay, periodontal disease, or trauma to the tooth.

The most common symptoms of infection of the tooth include toothache, sensitivity to hot and cold foods, swelling of the gums, and the formation of abscesses.

If not treated, an infection of the tooth can extend to other body parts and cause serious health problems. Talk to a dentist as soon as you can if you have causes to suspect an infection.

Common Tooth Infection Treatments

Modern therapies have come a long way since the early days of dental medicine,. We highlight some of the most common treatment options for dental care.

The most common treatments for dental infection are:

Antibiotics: Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria causing the infection. These are typically taken orally in the form of pills or liquids.

Root canal treatment: If the infection has spread to the tooth’s pulp, a root canal procedure may be necessary to remove the infected tissue and preserve the tooth.

Tooth extraction: In some cases, the infected tooth may need to be removed. A dentist or oral surgeon typically does this dental work.

Abscess drainage: If a tooth abscess has formed, it may need to be drained to reduce the pressure and pain. Your dentist can do this by making a small incision in the dental abscess to allow the pus to drain out.

Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can help manage the pain associated with an abscess tooth.

Home remedies like baking soda, salt water rinse, and clove oil, among others, are also critically acclaimed to be effective in managing dental abscesses.

Common Antibiotics for Tooth Infection

There are many antibiotics available on the market. Although they have the same purpose – to fight bacteria – they are not a one size fits all solution. Instead, each antibiotic’s specificity makes it more adequate for specific individuals and bacteria.

Dental healthcare professionals will determine the most appropriate antibiotic for each patient based on the type and severity of the infection and any potential allergies or other medical conditions the patient may have.

What is an antibiotic?

Antibiotic medication is used to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics eliminate or inhibit the growth of bacteria, allowing the body’s natural defenses to fight the disease.

There are various antibiotics, each effective against certain types of bacteria.

Misuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance in some bacteria, which can be challenging to treat. That’s why it is vital to take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by a doctor and finish the entire course of treatment to ensure that the infection is completely cleared.

List of Antibiotics for Tooth Infection

Here’s a list of common antibiotics your dentist may prescribe for tooth infections. More specific information about each medication is available by clicking on the name of each antibiotic.


This is a penicillin class antibiotic commonly used to treat tooth infections. It is taken orally as a pill or liquid with or without food, usually every 8 or 12 hours.

You are advised to drink plenty of fluids while using this medication is recommended unless noted otherwise. Most doctors will prescribe amoxicillin antibiotics for tooth infections.


This is an effective antibiotic against many bacteria, often used to treat infections that do not respond to other antibiotics. It is taken orally in the form of a pill or liquid. Clindamycin treats only bacterial infections and will not be effective against viral infections, such as the common cold or the flu.


This is one of the best antibiotics for gum infection that works by stopping the growth of certain bacteria and parasites. It is taken orally as a pill or liquid, best with food or a full glass of milk or water to prevent stomach upset.

Side effects include dizziness, headache, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, or a metallic taste in the mouth. Another harmless side effect is darker urine, which will eventually return to normal when the medication is stopped.

Metronidazole should be used during pregnancy only when needed since this medication passes into breast milk.


This is effective against many bacteria and is often used to treat infections that do not respond to other antibiotics. It is taken orally in the form of a pill or capsule.

Use this medication with a full glass of clean water, best on an empty belly, about 1 hour before a meal or 2 hours after eating. Taking Doxycycline with any products containing aluminum, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, or other substances in antacids, vitamins/minerals, or dairy products will prevent the body from fully absorbing the drug.

You should always ask the doctor or pharmacist how to take the medication for better effect.


This is used to prevent and treat severe types of infection caused by mycobacteria. It is not recommended for patients with a medical history of liver or kidney disease or myasthenia gravis.

The prolonged use of Azithromycin may cause a condition that affects the heart, provoking irregular/fast heartbeat, dizziness, and fainting. Patients must seek medical attention should any of these symptoms manifest.


A cephalosporin antibiotic is another antibiotic commonly used to treat dental infections and is usually taken orally. However, cephalosporins are not recommended in case of penicillin allergy and medical history of kidney disease or stomach/intestinal disease, such as colitis.

Doctors must be aware of scheduled vaccinations, as this antibiotic might interfere with live bacterial immunizations. One of the most commonly used antibiotics for oral infection is Cephalexin.


This antibiotic is very effective in treating dental infections and is the active principle in many other dental antibiotics.

Many people using penicillin do not have serious side effects but contact a doctor immediately in case of joint or muscular pain, unusual tiredness, easy bruising, or bleeding. It can be used during breastfeeding, but always consult a doctor beforehand.

7 common antibiotics for tooth infection

Antibiotic Use Best Practices

For best results and minimal risks, patients must follow the doctor’s instructions and discuss the risks and benefits of each antibiotic. In addition, your doctor would have analyzed possible interactions with other drugs or products and potential side effects.

Keeping a list of all the products the patient uses, including prescription/nonprescription drugs and herbal products, is helpful to share with the doctor and pharmacist to foresee and prevent harmful interactions.

Since the dosage is based on the patient’s medical condition and response to treatment, antibiotics must be taken as prescribed for each patient.

Taking prescribed medication as ordered will help ensure the best possible outcome and reduce risks. You should inform Doctors immediately if the condition persists or worsens.

What Happens if a Tooth Infection Is Not Treated?

Tooth infections, if not treated adequately, can spread to other body parts and cause serious health problems. As stated before, a tooth infection can spread to the jaw bone and the surrounding tissues, leading to abscesses.

If the infection gets into the bloodstream, it can cause a condition known as septicemia. Septicemia is a blood infection that can be lethal in weaker immune systems like hospital patients, the elderly, and children.

In some cases, untreated infections can also lead to the formation of a hole in the jaw bone, causing significant pain and discomfort.

Dental infections can develop into meningitis, the inflammation of the membranes near the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis may require hospitalization and can be fatal.

When to See a Doctor

A tooth infection can spread to other body parts if left untreated and lead to life-threatening complications. In the case of a painful toothache or an abscess, it’s essential to seek medical attention.

The dentist or healthcare provider can diagnose the infection and provide appropriate treatment to help prevent the disease from spreading. They will also be able to provide pain relief and other supportive care.

See a dentist or healthcare provider as soon as possible for tooth pain, sensitivity to hot and cold foods, swelling of the gums, or the formation of abscesses.

How to Prevent Tooth Infection?

Prevention is always the best cure. A daily routine focused on maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent oral infections. But you can take other steps toward an infection-free mouth.

The best way to prevent dental infection is to maintain good oral hygiene, schedule regular checkups with a dentist, avoid high-sugar foods, and abstain from smoking.

Brush often: Brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste will help remove plaque and food particles from teeth and gums, reducing the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Floss daily: Flossing helps remove food particles and plaque that can build up between teeth and the gum line, especially where a toothbrush cannot reach.

Use mouthwash: Mouthwash can help you kill bacteria and freshen your breath.

Avoid some foods: sugary and acidic foods and drinks can contribute to tooth decay and increase the risk of a tooth infection.

Visit the dentist regularly: Regular dental checkups and cleanings can help prevent tooth decay and identify potential problems early on.

Avoid tobacco use: Smoking and chewing tobacco can increase your risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease.

These simple steps will minimize the risk of tooth infection and maintain good oral health for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Penicillin-class antibiotics, like amoxicillin, are effective medications for treating dental infections. However, healthcare providers will analyze the type of infection and consider each patient’s medical history, possible interactions, allergies, and characteristics to prescribe the most suitable antibiotic. 

Toothache, fever, throbbing pain when chewing, difficulty in eating, breathing, and swallowing, and facial and neck swelling are the most common symptoms of dental infection. 

Immediately. If any of the symptoms described before are present, contact a doctor right away. Treatment will work best when started as early as possible. 

Antibiotics are prescription medications that healthcare professionals can only prescribe. Since there are no over-the-counter antibiotics for dental infection, patients should schedule an appointment with their doctor.

Left untreated, what started as a minor toothache can end up in a life-threatening condition. Besides the expected consequences (pain, bad breath, tooth loss), if the infection enters the bloodstream, it can cause serious medical issues like septicemia or meningitis.

Usually, patients start feeling better within 2-3 days, with noticeable improvement in the infected area. A full course of antibiotics can take from 7 up to 14 days, depending on the type of antibiotic used.

Antibiotics are used only in treating severe dental infections. They are not a substitute for proper dental treatment and care. Antibiotics prevent the infection from spreading and create the conditions necessary for dental intervention.


Antibiotics are an effective solution to treat bacterial infections. However, in the specific case of tooth infections, you should only use them in specific situations under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

For those wondering how to get rid of a tooth infection without antibiotics, remember antibiotics treat conditions created by bacterial infections. They are the only medication that can prevent bacteria from spreading to the rest of the body. Any other option can become life-threatening.

The best way to prevent tooth infections is daily oral hygiene, avoiding tobacco and some types of food and drinks, and regular visits to the dentist.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.