Background: The prudent use of antibiotics is an integral part of dental practice. While these agents generally are considered safe in the dental setting, their use can result in interactions that can lead to serious morbidity in dental patients.
Methods: The faculty of a symposium entitled "Adverse Drug Interactions in Dentistry: Separating the Myths From the Facts" did an extensive literature review on drug interactions. Through this, they were able to establish a significance rating of alleged adverse drug interactions as they relate to dentistry, based on their scientific documentation and severity of effect. The author of this article focused on antibiotics.
Results: Most of the reported drug interactions discussed in this article are well-documented by clinical studies. It is particularly important that dentists be aware of the potentially serious and life-threatening interactions of the antibiotics erythromycin, clarithromycin and metronidazole, and of the antifungal agents ketoconazole and itraconazole, with a host of other drugs whose metabolism is impaired by these antimicrobial agents. In contrast, the alleged ability of commonly employed antibiotics to reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptive agents is not adequately supported by clinical research. It still is recommended, however, that clinicians discuss this possible interaction with their patients, as it might represent a relatively rare event that cannot be discerned in clinical trials.
Conclusions: Potentially serious adverse drug interactions can occur between antimicrobial agents used in dental practice and other drugs patients are taking for a variety of medical conditions.
Clinical implications: It is important that dentists stay abreast of potential drug interactions involving antibiotics to avoid serious morbidity among their patients.