Raising awareness of antibiotic use

Most, if not all of us, have been prescribed a course of antibiotics at the doctors or the dentists for a simple bacterial infection. You take the full course and its worked wonders; you feel better in no time at all. But what would happen if antibiotics didn’t work? What if your simple infection couldn’t be treated effectively in the future, or worse, had no effect at all?

The effectiveness of antibiotics is fast-reducing and treating infections is becoming more difficult as bacteria become increasingly resistant.  

Antimicrobial resistance is arguably the gravest threat to public health across the world; 25,000 people die each year in Europe from sepsis caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria.* 

Throughout Antibiotic Awareness Week, Denplan, a part of Simplyhealth is raising awareness and encouraging both health professionals and patients to think about their antibiotic use.

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics kill bacteria, the microorganisms that can cause infections in our bodies. While our immune systems can fight off many simple infections effectively, it is sometimes difficult for our bodies alone to combat certain infections without the help of antibiotics. However, if infections are not treated properly, it can lead to life-threatening conditions.

It’s important to remember that antibiotics have NO effect on viruses like the common cold and flu.

Why are antibiotics important?

Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotics properties back in 1928 and since then, the world has medicine has developed and progressed to what it is today. By the end of the Second World War, antibiotics such as penicillin were being mass produced and were saving millions of lives. Furthermore, hospital wards were able to treat patients with common infections and diseases, reducing the death toll among soldiers and civilians.

Since then, the development of antibiotics has saved millions of lives that would have been claimed from simple infections and diseases. They have made chemotherapy, surgical operations, and procedures such as caesarean sections so much safer. However, we are at a point in time where over-use of antibiotics could reduce or potentially cease to be effective.

Why are bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics?

While sensitive bacteria are often killed by antibiotics, some bacteria find a way to resist antibiotics. These surviving bacteria then multiply, and these new bacteria are then more likely to be resistant to antibiotics too.

The more we take antibiotics unnecessarily, the more we contribute to the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This means that if you need antibiotics in the future, they may no longer be effective for you or other people.

Rethinking your approach to antibiotics:

  • Visit your dental team on a regular basis to help prevent dental problems before they start or worsen. You can help to prevent oral infections by practicing good oral hygiene.

  • If you are suffering with toothache, see your dentist, not your GP, to receive the most appropriate care. Toothache is usually caused by dental decay, which antibiotics won’t cure.

  • Trust your dentist’s judgement on whether they decide to prescribe you antibiotics or not.

  • Remember that antibiotics are NOT painkillers. Speak to your dentist about managing any dental pain or tooth ache you might have. Your dentist can suggest the appropriate dental treatment, pain medication, ice packs, or salt water rinses.

  • If you are prescribed antibiotics, use as directed and finish the entire course as prescribed.

  • Never share antibiotics prescribed to you with anyone else.

  • Antibiotics can cause unpleasant side effects including diarrhoea, nausea or skin rashes, so it’s important to take them only when absolutely necessary and under the instruction of a health professional.

*British Dental Association