Trends in Australian dental prescribing of antibiotics: 2005–2016

L. J. Walsh, P. J. Ford, T. McGuire, M. van Driel, S. A. Hollingworth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Dental Journal
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Apr 2021


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