Background: Prescribing of antibiotics by dentists for surgical prophylaxis or as an adjunct to managing dental infections is a substantial part of the overall landscape for prescribed antibiotics in health care settings.
Methods: We explored trends in the antibiotic prescribing patterns of Australian dentists over the 12-year period, 2005–2016. We obtained data on dispensed prescriptions of antibiotics from registered dentists subsidized on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Results: Australian dentists were responsible for almost 7 million dispensed prescriptions of antibiotics over 12 years; an average of 24 prescriptions per year per dentist. The most commonly prescribed antibiotic was amoxicillin, followed by amoxicillin + clavulanic acid and metronidazole. These top three antibiotics constituted more than 80% of all antibiotics prescribed and their use increased dramatically over time. There was a large increase in the prescribing of broad-spectrum antibiotics over time, most of which occurred from 2011 to 2016.
Conclusions: Excessive prescribing of broad-spectrum antibiotics runs contrary to national antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) initiatives and guidelines. Multifaceted educational strategies are essential to align prescribing with current best practice. High-level evidence to inform clear guidelines on antibiotic prescribing in dental infections, with audit and feedback, should reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics in dentistry.