In the history of medicine there has never been a more impactful discovery than that of the antibiotic. Antibiotics have allowed physicians to eradicate bacterial infections from their patients with quickly and effectively. However, unnecessarily prescribed, and inappropriately taken antibiotics have created antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can become life threatening. As a wellness dentist in Jacksonville, Florida, Dr. Shields errs on the side of caution when prescribing antibiotics, and thinks it is very important for her patients to understand the impact this medicine can have on their oral and overall wellness.
What are Antibiotics
Antibiotics are a class of drugs created from various bacterias that kill other bacteria. In 1928 Sir Andrew Fleming happened upon antibiotics as we know them today after isolating enzyme lysozyme and discovering that a fungus Penicillium notatum killed staphylococcus bacterium in his lab. Thus, penicillin was created. This discovery changed the field of medicine forever; however since the ancient Greece, the use of molds to cure infections has been practiced. Since Sir Fleming’s discovery, many different types of antibiotics have been developed.
There are two classes of antibiotics that each work differently to kill a bacterial infection and cure a patient. Classic antibiotics like penicillin and daptomycin are referred to as bactericidal. This class destroys the cell walls and everything inside a bacterium. The other is called bacteriostatic. This class includes tetracyclines and spectinomycin to name a few. These work by disrupting the bacteria’s ability to replicate and synthesise the proteins they need to infect. Both of these classes of antibiotics are equally up to the challenge of curing infections, and causing harm if wrongly prescribed and ingested.
What is the Harm of Antibiotics
For all the good that antibiotics have done the world, they have also caused some harm. First, antibiotics kill all the bacteria in a patient’s body. They cannot isolate the infection bacteria. For most people, this is not a major problem. After they have recovered, good bacteria in the gut and elsewhere in the body are able to repopulate and begin helping the body function properly. This however is not the main issue with antibiotics. Bacteria can become antibiotic resistant if antibiotics are not taken as prescribed or if the antibiotics should not have been prescribed in the first place.
Bacteria are microorganisms, while they are all the same, they are not identical. Some bacteria are stronger than others of the same type, and resistant to antibiotics. When the medication goes to work killing the infection, these stronger bacteria take longer to kill. In some cases the antibiotics are unable to kill these bacteria. The strong bacteria then replicates and becomes resistant to antibiotics. These infections can be fatal, and are very concerning for doctors in all fields of medicine.
Because antibiotics have been prescribed so often, because they are rampantly used in our food supply, there are many strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that have caused over 20,000 deaths and two million illnesses each year in America alone. To combat these virulent strains of bacteria from developing and spreading it is important for dentists and doctors alike to only prescribe antibiotics when there are no other alternative treatments, and to only prescribe the best antibiotic to kill the strain in question.
How to be Safe with Antibiotics
As your Jacksonville, Florida dentist, Dr. Shields promises to be an antibiotic steward and only prescribe antibiotics when the use of this medicine is necessary to kill an infection. She understands that overuse of antibiotics can have, and is currently having, a negative effect on the population. If you are prescribed an antibiotic to kill a bacterial infection it is also very important that you follow the instructions of Dr. Shields to protect your health and to completely eradicate your infection.
When you are prescribed antibiotics you will most often be given enough pills to take twice daily for up to two weeks. While your symptoms will seem to clear up within a day or so, it is extremely important that you finish out your prescription. By taking your antibiotics as prescribed you are allowing the medicine to completely kill all the bacteria in your body. As we discussed early some infectious bacteria are stronger and will need to be treated with the antibiotics for much longer. It can be easy for patients who feel fine to stop taking their medication, however this is how bacteria can mutate into antibiotic-resistant organisms and develop into a potentially life threatening situation.
If you are ever prescribed antibiotics by Dr. Shields, make sure you follow her instructions. Take your entire course of antibiotics and feel free to ask any questions about why antibiotics are the best way to cure your specific infection.