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Q: Hey Doc, I’ve got a tooth that has been bothering me for a while. When it starts up I just take a couple of antibiotics and it goes away. Recently, I noticed a bad taste and bad breath. My insurance doesn’t kick in for another month. Can I wait until then?

A: My best advice to you would be no, you really shouldn’t wait that long. It sounds like you have an infected tooth. By taking just a small dose of antibiotics you eliminated enough of the infection to relieve your discomfort for a short period of time.

This is never a good idea for several reasons. The first is that the remaining bacteria can become resistant to antibiotic therapy making it more difficult to eliminate the infection totally. The second is that enough bacteria remain to cause the infection to persist and become larger. Antibiotics are not a cure all. They are meant to be used in conjunction with dental treatment.

Your dentist may prescribe them prior to, during or after needed treatment. They are never a substitute for dental treatment. In addition, when taking antibiotics that were not prescribed for the problem you are currently experiencing you can run into several problems.

As I mentioned before antibiotic resistance is one, taking the correct dosage is another and lastly taking the right antibiotic for the right problem. At this point, the infection is probably draining causing the bad taste and bad breath. That is very unhealthy because you are ingesting the pus every time you swallow. Also, as the infection persists it dissolves the bone surrounding the tooth that is bothering you. The longer you wait the more the condition will worsen. I would urge you to visit the dentist to at least determine what needs to be done to eliminate the infection. If you absolutely must wait for your insurance, discuss this with your dentist and they may be able to offer a solution that can help you temporarily.