Background Antibiotic prescribing practices among general dentists and dental specialists in the United States remains poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to compare prescribing practices across dental specialties, evaluate the duration of antibiotics dentists prescribed, and determine variation in antibiotic selection among dentists. Methods The authors performed a retrospective cross-sectional analysis of dental care provider specialties linked to deidentified antibiotic claims data from a large pharmacy benefits manager during the 2015 calendar year. Results As a group, general dentists and dental specialists were responsible for more than 2.9 million antibiotic prescriptions, higher than levels for several other medical and allied health care provider specialties. Antibiotic treatment duration generally was prolonged and commonly included broad-spectrum agents, such as amoxicillin clavulanate and clindamycin. Although amoxicillin was the most commonly prescribed antibiotic among all dental specialties, there was substantial variation among other antibiotics each specialty selected. The most common antibiotic treatment durations were 7 and 10 days. Conclusions This study's results demonstrate that dentists frequently prescribe antibiotics for prolonged periods and often use broad-spectrum antibiotics. Further studies are necessary to evaluate the appropriateness of these antibiotic prescribing patterns. Practical Implications The clinically significant variation in antibiotic selection and treatment duration identified among all dental specialties in this study population implies that further research and guidance into the treatment of dental infections is necessary to improve and standardize antibiotic prescribing practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)878-886.e1
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Antibiotics
  • dentistry
  • prophylaxis
  • treatment


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