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What can I do to help tackle antibiotic resistance?

All members of a dental team, including patients and dental associations, have crucial roles in ensuring the appropriate use of antibiotics

All members of a dental team, including patients and national dental associations, have crucial roles to play in ensuring the appropriate use of antibiotics in a bid to tackle resistance.

The contribution dentistry can make to global efforts to tackle antibiotic resistance have been identified in the FDI World Dental Federation’s white paper entitled ‘The essential role of the dental team in tackling antibiotic resistance.’

Three key areas are identified:

  1. Raising awareness about antibiotic resistance
  2. Preventing and controlling infections
  3. Optimising the use of antibiotics (stewardship)

Dentistry’s roleThree key areas in tackling antibiotic resistance: Raising awareness, Antibiotic Stewardship, and Infection Prevention and Control.

Preventing the development of dental infections is one of the main aims of routine dental care. As shown in the infographic below, reducing the rate of dental decay results in a reduced rate of dental infection and so less requirement for dental antibiotics.

By teaching patients about reducing sugar consumption and maintaining excellent oral hygiene, dentists make an important contribution to the global fight against antibiotic resistance. Arguably, public health has an even more important role: by ensuring access to oral health services, developing policies to reduce sugar consumption (such as through sugar or sweetened soft beverage taxes) and introducing fluoride programmes.

Infographic on reducing dental infections and antibiotic use - less tooth decay = less infection = less antibiotic use = less antibiotic resistance Copyright of FDI World Dental Federation.

Raising awareness

Communicating the concept of resistance can be tricky. Personalising the agenda for individuals by framing the problem as undermining modern medicine and focusing on the immediacy of the problem is advised, based on international research.

These are the recommended key messages:

  1. Antibiotic resistance is a problem that affects everyone (including you, your friends and family) and needs tackling immediately.
  2. As a trusted healthcare professional, you hold a high degree of respect within your local community and have an important role in raising awareness about antibiotic resistance among the general population as well as with patients.

Public communication programmes that target different audiences exist relating to human health, animal health and agricultural practice, as well as consumers. To underpin delivery of this aim, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) begins each year on 18th November. It provides an opportunity to refresh messaging and action plans each year.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week Dental Poster

Infection prevention and control

Infection prevention and control (IPC) is a specific scientific approach and practical solution designed to prevent harm caused by infection to health workers and patients.

IPC occupies a unique position in the field of patient safety and quality universal health coverage since it is relevant to health workers and patients at every single healthcare encounter.

Within dentistry, examples include hand hygiene, sterilisation of equipment and sharps handling. More detail about IPC is included within the FDI policy statement on infection prevention and control in dental practice.

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Tackling Antibiotic Resistance: What Should Dental Teams Do?

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