Antibiotics/Antimicrobials for Gum Disease

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
chlorhexidine gluconate Peridex, Periogard
clindamycin Cleocin
doxycycline Periostat
metronidazole Flagyl
penicillin  
triclosan Colgate Total toothpaste

Sustained-release antibiotics

Generic Name Brand Name
chlorhexidine gluconate PerioChip
doxycycline hyclate Atridox
minocycline Arestin

How It Works

Antibiotics kill bacteria. Plaque contains bacteria, so antibiotics will reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth. This can reverse gum disease and allow your gums to heal.

Dentists prescribe antibiotics in different forms to treat gum disease. They can be applied directly on the gums (topical), swallowed as pills or capsules, swished around on your teeth as mouthwash, or inserted into the pockets of advanced gum disease. Some medicated toothpastes contain an antibacterial ingredient that reduces plaque and gingivitis when used regularly. Ask your dentist if this type of product would help you.

Why It Is Used

  • To reduce bacteria in your mouth, antibiotic mouthwash may be prescribed for use after brushing and flossing.
  • Topical antibiotics may be prescribed to treat early-stage gum disease (gingivitis) that cannot be slowed by improved brushing and flossing habits.
  • Topical antibiotics may be prescribed to treat mild forms of advanced gum disease (periodontitis).
  • Sustained-release antibiotics may be inserted into the gum pocket for periodontitis.
  • Antibiotic pills or capsules may be prescribed to treat moderate to severe periodontitis.

How Well It Works

If antibiotic treatment is combined with proper brushing and flossing habits, gum disease can sometimes be stopped. Then gums can become pink and healthy again.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Fainting or lightheadedness.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Skin rash.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Antibiotics cannot always kill bacteria (antibiotic resistance), in part because they are used too much or are used incorrectly. You can help prevent antibiotic resistance by taking all of your medicine as directed, even if you feel better after a few days. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, bacteria that are not killed in the first few days of treatment can grow stronger and become resistant to the antibiotic.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
Current as of May 29, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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