Three national dental organisations are supporting the World Health Organisation’s world antibiotic awareness week by urging the dental profession to help keep antibiotics working.

The Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP(UK)), the British Association of Oral Surgeons (BAOS) and the Association of Clinical Oral Microbiologists (ACOM) say that while progress has been made in reducing the number of antibiotic prescriptions in dentistry, more needs to be done to further reduce inappropriate prescribing.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a worldwide problem, with the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to many classes of antibiotics constituting a major threat to public health as even simple infections may become untreatable.

Inappropriate prescribing and misuse of antibiotics contribute to an increasing incidence of multi-drug-resistant infections, causing an estimated 700,000 deaths each year, including 25,000 in Europe.

The health care gains for patients undergoing major surgery, and a wide range of critical treatments such as organ and stem cell transplants and chemotherapy, will be lost to the higher risk of mortality, and the UK government predicts the annual global toll could be 10 million by 2050.

Guidance for dentists

Dentists issue approximately 5-7% of all antibiotic prescriptions in the NHS, and the three organisations are encouraging dental prescribers to use freely available resources to help ensure appropriate use.

FGDP(UK)’s Antimicrobial prescribing for general dental practitioners is available on the faculty’s website, and provides evidence-based guidance on when to prescribe antibiotics, what to prescribe, for how long and at what dosage.

The BAOS’s recently-launched Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) e-learning modules provide verified CPD enabling oral health professionals to demonstrate application of the principles of antimicrobial stewardship to common clinical scenarios.

They are relevant to all GDPs, including those who place dental implants, undertake minor oral surgery or practise in specialist areas.

Free dental AMS toolkit

The FGDP(UK), BAOS and ACOM also highlight the free dental AMS toolkit that is endorsed by Public Health England and available at www.fgdp.org.uk/antimicrobial-prescribing.

The toolkit includes patient information on the use of antibiotics for the management of dental infections, as well as the Antimicrobial prescribing self-audit tool.

This self-audit tool enables dental prescribers to audit their antimicrobial prescribing and management of dental infections against guidelines.

The profession is also encouraged to take the dental pledges at http://antibioticguardian.com/ and to use the hashtags #AntibioticGuardian and #keepantibioticsworking on social media.

‘Clear links causing resistance’

Dr Nick Palmer, editor and co-author of the Faculty’s guidance, said: ‘the number of antibiotic prescriptions issued by NHS GDPs is now at its lowest level for 25 years.

‘However dentists can do more to reduce inappropriate prescribing to help keep antibiotics working.’

Greg Gerrard, council member of the BAOS, added: ‘oral health professionals have a vital role to play in keeping antibiotics working by prescribing them only when necessary, and by educating patients to take and dispose of them responsibly.’

Dr Noha Seoudi, representing ACOM, commented: ‘there is a clear link between inappropriately prescribed antibiotics and the increasing rates of antibiotic resistance, so it is vital that dentists ensure that their use of antibiotics is clinically justified and in line with the national guidelines.’

World antibiotic awareness week is a joint initiative of the UN’s World Health Organisation, Food and Agriculture Organisation, and World Organisation for Animal Health.

It runs until Sunday 18 November, which is also European antibiotic awareness day, organised by the EU’s European Centre for Disease Control.

For more information, please contact The Faculty of General Dental Practice UK.