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Antibiotic resistance in dentistry

Dentists have a role to play in reducing antibiotic prescribing to help tackle the growing global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). COVID-19 has disrupted the progress dentists were making on reducing antibiotic prescribing rates in the UK. That’s why, we are campaigning for properly funded urgent treatment slots to help bring down antibiotic prescribing rates and fight antimicrobial resistance.

Antibiotic prescribing and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted progress on this.

A surge in dental antibiotic prescribing occurred after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In England, there was an increase of 18.4 per cent in dental antibiotic prescribing in May 2020, compared to the same month in 2019, with rates peaking across the country in June 2020.

Before the pandemic, significant progress had been made in reducing the number of dental prescriptions for antibiotics across the UK. Figures published by the English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance (ESPAUR), for example, show that dental practices dispensed around a quarter fewer prescriptions for antibiotics in 2017 compared to 2013.

A failure to address the problem of antibiotic resistance could result in ten million deaths, every year, globally by 2050. As the pandemic continues and into the future, it is essential that dentists are supported to once again reduce the rate of antibiotics prescribed.


Antibiotic prescribing audit tool for dentists

Dentists have an important role to play in fighting antimicrobial resistance. We must get back to the progress we were making before the pandemic.

This clinical tool will help you do a simple audit for your antibiotic prescribing actions or do a more comprehensive review of your management of dental infections.


Antibiotic prescribing tool


Note: This tool is an MS Excel (.xlsm) spreadsheet - we recommend downloading the file to a desktop computer (right-click and 'save as') to use it. This tool was developed by the Dental Subgroup of ESPAUR, which includes representatives from the BDA, FGDP, ACOM and BASCD.

It is designed to be used with the FGDP's Antimicrobial Prescribing for GDPs (available free from the BDA Library for members), to ensure you are prescribing according to the current guidance.

What is the BDA doing about antibiotic prescribing in dentistry?

The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a 5-year action plan and a 20-year vision for tackling antibiotic resistance, and the BDA contributed to their development. But concrete steps are needed to support the fight against antimicrobial resistance in dentistry.

That’s why we’ve set out the case for capital funding for practices to deliver the ventilation systems that can reduce fallow time and expand access. E-prescribing would also allow us to monitor dental antibiotic prescribing more effectively.

We’ve called on government to commit to properly funded urgent care slots to reduce the pressure to prescribe antibiotics when they are not indicated. This will allow dentists to establish a differential diagnosis and provide appropriate interventive treatment when required, rather than prescribe antibiotics.

We are lobbying for public engagement on the issue of antimicrobial resistance. Each November, we support the World Health Organisation's Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week.


We are part of Public Health England's dental working group on antimicrobial utilisation and resistance. We also continue to work collaboratively towards the One Health goals alongside medical, pharmaceutical, veterinary and international colleagues.


We are working with the Council of European Dentists and the FDI World Dental Federation to ensure cohesive action across Europe and globally. Through working together we hope to make a bigger impact and ensure patients are treated effectively.

Antibiotic prescribing resources for dentists

Guidance and data:

Reports and action plans:

Resources for patients:

​Working for you

Through our policy and campaigning work we are able to ensure that the concerns of all sections of the profession are raised and that dentists' voices are heard at a national level.

Please read our blogs on antibiotic prescribing, for the latest updates and opinions on this issue, and consider joining us to support the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

You can also follow updates from the BDA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.