Public health campaigns to stop the overuse of antibiotics have a problem. Their objective is noble — to reduce the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria. However, benefits accrue to society at large rather than to the individual patient who takes an antibiotic when he doesn’t need it, or uses it inappropriately.
Lots of people still ask for antibiotics when they don’t need them (e.g., for viral infections), and doctors sometimes oblige to keep their patients happy even when they know better. Resistance to antibiotics continues to rise.
But a new study (Association of Amoxicillin Use During Early Childhood With Developmental Tooth Enamel Defects in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine) may help stem the tide, at least a little. Turns out that amoxicillin, the most widely prescribed antibiotic for children (think ear infections) causes tooth defects in permanent teeth. That factoid may make it easier for doctors to say no when pressured to prescribe amoxicillin inappropriately and may make patients more reluctant to push.October 6, 2005