Guide to antibiotics for toothaches

Updated February 21, 2017

Tooth pain really can be quite crippling. In fact, it is sometimes considered to be more agonising than childbirth. To compound the problem, many toothaches have no quick fix whatsoever. Pain medication, either prescription or over-the-counter, can cover up the pain but it's bound to come back within a few days or even hours. Antibiotics are quite successful at treating toothaches, but it can sometimes take days before any relief is felt. When it comes to permanently treating most kinds of toothaches, however, antibiotics are usually the best option.


The most famous and preferred antibiotic for treating toothaches that have developed as a result of a tooth infection, penicillin has been used in dentistry since World War II. Derived from a type of mould, there are very few side effects associated with the use of penicillin, with only mild reports of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and black hairy tongue. These symptoms usually cease after the patient stops using penicillin. It is also important to note that some types of infections have grown either partially or completely resistant to penicillin. In these cases, treatment with penicillin is futile.


Amoxicillin, a modified version of penicillin, was developed for treating penicillin-resistant infection and bacteria. The most widely used antibiotic in dentistry today, it is also used in patients who are allergic to penicillin and is commonly prescribed to patients who have never used any type of antibiotic in the past. However, there are many more side effects associated with the use of amoxicillin than penicillin. The most common side effects of amoxicillin include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, black hairy tongue, skin rash, jaundice, tooth discolouration, hyperactivity, agitation and insomnia. Overdosage could lead to renal failure, crystalluria and interstitial nephritis.


Less frequently used than either penicillin or amoxicillin, clindamycin is used to treat infections that are a direct result of penicillin or amoxicillin-resistant bacteria. There are several side effects that have been reported in users of clindamycin, however, some of which can be quite severe. These side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, pseudomembranous colitis, dermatitis and leukopenia. Overdosage of clindamycin can led to convulsions and depression.

Antibiotics can't treat everything

Although various antibiotics have been proven effective against a number of infections and types of bacteria, they are not effective against toothaches that are caused by irreversible pulpitis. In these cases, the only treatment is prolonged administration of analgesics.

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