Are there over-the-counter antibiotics for my tooth infection?

Reviewed by:
Dr. Robert Kwok
Director of Health Informatics
Last updated on December 5, 2021

tooth infection is no fun to deal with. 

But before you run out to the drugstore in search of a quick fix, let us save you the trip: over-the-counter antibiotics for a tooth infection don’t exist.

If you’ve got an infected tooth, there are usually two focus areas for treatment:

  1. Oral (prescription) antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection in or around the tooth

  2. Dental surgery to remove the infected area inside the tooth

Your dentist can help you with both.

Why are antibiotics recommended?

This isn’t always the case, but it often is. Most oral bacterial infections are unlikely to go away on their own, and need prescription antibiotics in order to treat them.

Tooth infections left without antibiotic treatment could spread through other parts of your body and potentially cause life-threatening effects such as an infection in your neck, head, or brain. 

What are the best antibiotics for a tooth infection?

“Best” will vary from person to person. Your doctor or dentist will consider what type of bacteria is causing your infection, whether you’re allergic to any antibiotics, and possibly other factors.

The most common antibiotics for tooth infections are: 

  • Penicillin - The most common prescription antibiotic for tooth infections. It’s commonly prescribed alongside other antibiotics and isn’t always effective when used by itself. 

  • Amoxicillin - Most commonly prescribed to adults with mild tooth infections.

  • Clindamycin - Prescribed to patients with allergies to penicillin.

That said, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and you shouldn’t go to your doctor or dentist with a specific antibiotic in mind. Trust your care provider to diagnose you and prescribe the right antibiotic.

Your HealthTap online doctor can tell you if the medicine you’re prescribed will have any impact on medications you’re currently taking, or on any health conditions you currently have. If you receive a prescription on HealthTap, you can use your account to find the lowest costs on your prescription. 

How long should I take antibiotics for my tooth infection?

Always take prescription medication according to the schedule your doctor gives you.

Antibiotics for a tooth infection can be prescribed for 7 up to 14 days. This can vary depending on the severity and type of infection, so always be sure to follow your doctor’s specific instructions. 

If you have a weakened immune system, you’re at greater risk for your infection spreading to other areas of your body. It’s highly recommended that you start your antibiotic treatment as soon as possible. 

Can I stop taking my antibiotics if I start to feel better?

You should always take the full course of antibiotics your doctor prescribes to you. If you stop your course of treatment early (even with improved symptoms) you are more susceptible to antibiotic resistance一as well as the potential of your infection returning as a much worse infection. 

What if I still have an infection after I finish my antibiotics?

If you still have symptoms of a tooth infection following the completion of your prescribed antibiotics, follow up with your doctor or dentist for an additional check-up.

HealthTap is always here to help

Regardless of what symptoms you’re dealing with, you always have quick access to a doctor you can trust with your HealthTap account.

Subscribe or log in today to get in touch with your doctor.

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HealthTap Editors

HealthTap Editors

HealthTap articles are reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Visit https://www.healthtap.com/about-doctors/ to learn more and meet some of the medical editorial board members behind our blog. The information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. HealthTap is a virtual-first, affordable urgent- and primary-care clinic, providing top-quality physician care nationwide to Americans with or without insurance. Our proprietary, easy-to-use, and innovative apps and electronic medical record apply Silicon Valley standards to effectively engage consumers and doctors online to increase the equity, accessibility, and efficiency of ongoing medical care for consumers, providers, employers, and payers. In addition, with HealthTap, businesses can offer virtual primary care to employees for less than the cost of free coffee. HealthTap's US-based board-certified physicians are available throughout North America. For more information, visit www.healthtap.com.
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