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Antibiotics Before Dental Work

Do Joint Replacement Patients Require Antibiotic Treatement Before Dental Work


Updated June 05, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

dental work after joint replacement

Talk to your doctor if you think you need antibiotics before dental work.

Photo © www.iStockPhoto.com

Patients who have joint replacement surgery are at risk for developing infections of the implanted joints. Once bacteria that has traveled through the bloodstream find implanted joints, the body's immune system has a difficult time fighting the infection.  Infection of a knee replacement and infection of a hip replacement are serious complications.

Therefore, it is critical to avoid situations that can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream in the first place. If that is not possible, such as is the case with some invasive medical procedures, including some types of dental work, then antibiotics may be recommended.

There has been confusion, among doctors, dentists, and patients, about who should have antibiotics before having dental work. In the past, administration of antibiotics prior to dental work was only recommended during the first two years after surgery. Then the recommendation was changed in 2009 to advise routine antibiotic administration in joint replacement patients for lifetime.  The latest statement (2012) is that antibiotics are NOT mandatory for patients undergoing routine dental work after having a total joint replacement.  This statement was endorsed by both the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the American Dental Association (ADA).

Special Circumstances

There are some patients who may have a higher chance of developing an infection. These people need special consideration, and certain factors should be taken into account when a doctor decides on whether or not to give the recommended antibiotics before a procedure. These individuals include:

Immunocompromised/Immunosuppressed Patients
These include patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other conditions that can affect the immune system. Patients who take medications or receive radiation treatment that can alter the immune system should also have antibiotics prior to dental work.
Patients With Other Medical Conditions Effecting Immune Defenses
Patients with other medical issues that alter the body's ability to fight infection may also require specific medications to help prevent infection. Some of these medical conditions include:

Patients With Prior Infection of a Joint Replacement
Patients who have had infection of a joint replacement implant in the past should have antibiotic treatments before dental work. These guidelines are recommendations, and they may be altered by your dentist or your orthopedic surgeon. If you have questions about your specific situation, you should discuss any concerns with your doctor.

What Antibiotics Are Used?

When antibiotics are recommended, most patients take Amoxicillin, usually one hour before the dental work. If you cannot tolerate oral antibiotics, your doctor may recommend Cefazolin or Ampicillin, which gets injected within one hour of the procedure.  If you are allergic to these medications, your doctor may recommend an alternative antibiotic, usually Clindamycin (either oral or injected).


AAOS, ADA Release CPG for Prophylactic Antibiotics American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2012.


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