Dentists to become ‘Guardians’ in fight to protect the future of antibiotics

14 November, 2014

Scottish dentists are being asked to become ‘Antibiotic Guardians’ in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

The pledge, which is part of this year’s European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD), asks to agree to do one thing which will help make better use of these vital medicines and safeguard them for future generations. The Antibiotic Guardian campaign was developed by Public Health England (PHE), who are hosting EAAD in the UK.

The campaign, which is being led in Scotland by the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group (SAPG), based within the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), calls on dentists to act to reduce unnecessary prescribing and also raise awareness among patients that antibiotics are not always the best treatment for dental infections.

While a recent SAPG report shows Scotland is ahead of the game when it comes to reducing prescriptions for antibiotics, with a decrease of 6.5 per cent in 2013-14, there is still work to be done. In terms of dental prescribing there had been a steady increase in the number of antibiotics being prescribed by dentists in Scotland up to 2012-13, but in 2013-14 there was a decrease of 5.5 per cent and dental prescriptions accounted for 8.9 per cent of all antibiotics dispensed in Scotland.

Dr Jacqueline Sneddon, project lead for SAPG, said: “Antibiotic resistance is a major public health issue and a threat to the future of healthcare. The World Health Organisation has warned of a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries can kill. Far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, this is a very real possibility for the 21st century.

“Without effective antibiotics safe and effective healthcare will become increasingly difficult. As well as their use for treating infections antibiotics are an essential part of care for patients undergoing operations and receiving cancer chemotherapy.

“While Scotland has made substantial progress in improving the quality of antibiotic prescribing both in hospitals and in the community, we still have more to do to ensure we are better placed to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. That’s why we’re calling on the public and professionals alike to make this pledge.”

Dentists, members of the public and other healthcare professionals can choose from a range of pledges at

The campaign argues that, while many patients may feel they need antibiotics for toothache, dental pain is an inflammatory condition which can in many cases be managed by the appropriate use of analgesics and local treatment at the site of pain. The long-standing relationship between most dentists and their patients means they can play a key role in providing a better understanding of how to manage dental pain and in doing so spread the word about antibiotic resistance.

The campaign will also target hospitals, GP surgeries, community pharmacies and care homes.

Dr Sneddon said: “Everyone has a part to play in helping reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance. If we act now, we can protect both ourselves and future generations from the problems that a world without effective antibiotics could bring.”

You can find out more about antibiotics and EAAD by clicking here.

BDA pledges its support

The BDA is working to present recommendations from an expert summit on antimicrobial resistance that was held at its London headquarters this week for publication at its Annual Conference in May 2015.

The association is also calling on its members to become an Antibiotic Guardian by taking the pledge to cut the use of antibiotics ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November.

Dr Graham Stokes, chair of the BDA Health and Science Committee and one of the initiators of the summit, said: “The battle against antimicrobial resistance will require concerted action by individuals, agencies and governments. And that is why the British Dental Association is stepping up.

“Dentists are responsible for approximately 10 per cent of all antibiotic prescriptions in the UK and evidence suggests that many patients could be treated more appropriately without antibiotics. It is important we all work together to ensure that the right treatment is given at the right time, with the right funding.

“We will offer some clear recommendations that can make a difference. This is a problem facing the entire healthcare community, and we can all be part of the solution. The pledge to become an Antibiotic Guardian next week is a chance for all practitioners to do their bit.”

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