Interview: “Antibiotic resistance is a serious health issue”
The use of antibiotics is essential in modern medical treatments, yet frequent misuse has reduced their effectiveness. This year’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW), held from 14 to 20 November, sought to increase public understanding of the issue. DT Online spoke with Dr Paul Sambrook, Chairman of the Dental Therapeutics Committee of the Australian Dental Association (ADA), about WAAW’s purpose and what dental professionals can do to combat antimicrobial resistance.
ST Online: What is the primary goal of WAAW?
Dr Paul Sambrook: The aim of the WAAW is to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, prescribers and policymakers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.
How widespread of a problem is misuse or overuse of antibiotics in Australia?
Dentists prescribe less than 3 per cent of all antibiotics prescribed in Australia. However, information from NPS MedicineWise states that Australia has one of the highest prescription rates globally, with around 29 million prescriptions issued each year—more than one per person on average. Antibiotic resistance is a serious health issue already present in our community. Without antibiotics, infections that were once easily treated may once again kill.
If we do not address antibiotic resistance, by 2050 up to ten million people may die every year from untreatable infections.
How did the ADA encourage involvement during WAAW?
The continuing theme of “Antibiotics: Handle with care” for this year’s WAAW is highly relevant for dentistry. People with dental problems sometimes think that popping a painkiller or seeing their doctor for antibiotics is the best response rather than having a proper examination by their dentist.
The ADA has been doing its part to address the problem of antibiotic resistance by advising members through informational articles in its regular publications and website. ADA members have access to a highly experienced clinical pharmacist, Dr Geraldine Moses, from whom they can seek expert advice on prescribing. We also provide members with a copy of the dental and oral therapeutic guidelines, which provide reliable and independent therapeutic information to assist in making the best decisions for patients in a dental setting.
How can dental professionals help minimise the risk of increasing antimicrobial resistance?
The first response to dental problems must always be accurate assessment by a dentist who can deal with the cause, not just the symptoms. That is our message to patients.
We urge dental professionals to use the opportunity to educate their patients about how to address dental problems they have pre- and post-treatment and where antibiotics do or do not fit in their particular case.
To ensure that dental professionals are prescribing antibiotics in line with best practice, ADA members can use services such as PharmaAdvice and the afore-mentioned therapeutic guidelines.