Press release

Prescribing of dental antibiotics up 22% in England during first year of COVID-19

ABR Week

Prescriptions of all other antibiotics fell during the same period

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 (Geneva, Switzerland) After years of consecutive decline, the rate of dental antibiotic prescribing increased by over a fifth in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Dentistry was the only part of England’s publicly-funded National Health Service to experience an increase. The steepest rise occurred when dental practices were closed from March to June 2020 during the first wave of COVID-19, and it has been slow to decline since. The data has been released by the UK government today ahead of the World Health Organization´s World Antimicrobial Awareness (AMR) Week.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been unforgiving,” said Wendy Thompson, a member of FDI World Dental Federation´s AMR Working Group.

“But using antibiotics to make up for a lack of access to urgent dental care is a risk to patient safety and should be avoided wherever possible. We need to start treating patients with acute dental pain or infection, not medicating them.”

Even in Spring 2021, four out of five people in England still said they had difficulties accessing timely care for their dental problems. Healthwatch England reports that dentistry is the top issue with which it is currently dealing, feedback from the public being nearly eight times higher than the same period in 2020.

Antibiotics are usually only administered for severe infections alongside treatment to drain the infection. Antibiotic-only dental care is rarely in line with guidance. But the restricted access to face-to-face dental appointments last year saw the medicines being prescribed when procedures would usually be a quicker and safer fix.

“Prescribing antibiotics when not necessary is a problem because it drives the development and spread of infections that are resistant to antibiotics,” said Thompson.

Within the next 30 years, more people will die from resistant infections than will die from cancer, unless action is taken now. The WHO predicts that antimicrobial resistance will be the world´s biggest killer by 2050.

“We need to make a clear and public commitment to tackling antibiotic resistance and communicate to the general public what appropriate antibiotic use in dentistry is all about and how it impacts them,” said Professor Ihsane Ben Yahya, President of FDI World Dental Federation and Dean of the Dental Faculty at the Medicine University Mohammed VI of Health Science in Casablanca, Morocco.

“And just as importantly, we need to advocate for dentistry to be included within national action plans on antibiotic resistance. And that means developing evidence-based guidelines where they don’t already exist on dental antibiotic use as well as engaging with audits of dental antibiotic use.”




Further Information:

Michael Kessler

FDI Media Relations

Mob: + 34 655 792 699


Twitter: @mickessler


About FDI World Dental Federation: FDI is the main representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide, with a vision of leading the world to optimal oral health. Its membership comprises some 200 national member associations and specialist groups in over 130 countries.