Oral health professionals are being asked to support World Antibiotic Awareness Week
Oral health professionals are being asked to support World Antibiotic Awareness Week

Organisations from across dentistry and other health sectors have come together to ask oral health professionals to support World Antibiotic Awareness Week (14-20 November 2016) by joining their social media ‘Thunderclap’.

The Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK), the British Dental Association and the Association of Clinical Oral Microbiologists, supported by Public Health England, the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and the Antibiotic Action initiative, are asking their members to sign up at the Antibiotic Prescribing Pledge webpage and commit to help keep antibiotics working by auditing their management of oral and dental infections. The site will then post a message of support on their Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr profiles to help raise awareness among fellow professionals and the general public.

Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem that leads to antibiotics no longer being effective in treating even simple infections, with serious consequences for everyone, but particularly those undergoing major surgery, chemotherapy, organ or stem cell transplants. Every year, 25,000 people across Europe and 700,000 worldwide die from antibiotic-resistant infections, and the government predicts the annual global toll could be 10 million by 2050 – more than all deaths from cancer.

In the UK, dentists account for 9% of antibiotics prescribed in community healthcare. Auditing the management of dental infections can help reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed inappropriately – such as in response to patient demand, or in the absence of systemic signs of infection – and the FGDP(UK) publishes free online guidance to help dentists decide when they are required. A new audit tool for General Dental Practitioners, developed with Public Health England, will also soon be available on the FGDP(UK) and BDA websites.

The organisations say that dentists can help their patients understand that for dental pain, dental care is usually a more effective treatment than antibiotics, and that when antibiotics are prescribed, taking and disposing of them responsibly can help fight the rise in antibiotic-resistant infections.

FGDP(UK) dean, Dr Mick Horton, said: ‘Spreading the word about antimicrobial resistance will help save lives, maybe even your own or that of someone close to you. Please take a minute to help keep antibiotics working by joining our Thunderclap.’

BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: ‘Effective antimicrobial stewardship is the best way to meet this clear and present danger to public health. We all need to play our part, and you can start by getting this vital message out.’

Dr Sandra White, director of Dental Public Health at Public Health England, added: ‘The Antibiotic Guardian campaign is coordinating our world-leading efforts to help the public and healthcare professionals ensure antibiotics are prescribed only when necessary, and taken and disposed of responsibly. Primary care dentists in the UK prescribe 3.7 million courses of antibiotics every year, and we are delighted to be working with the FGDP(UK), the BDA and other leading organisations to help them play their part in tackling antimicrobial resistance.’