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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD004969.

Antibiotic use for irreversible pulpitis.

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U.S. Naval Health Clinics United Kingdom, PSC 821, Box 51, FPO AE 09421-0051, UK.

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Irreversible pulpitis, which is characterised by acute and intense pain, is one of the most frequent reasons that patients attend for emergency dental care. Apart from removal of the tooth the customary way of relieving the pain of irreversible pulpitis is by drilling into the tooth, removing the inflamed pulp (nerve) and cleaning the root canal. However, a significant minority of dentists continue to prescribe antibiotics to stop the pain of irreversible pulpitis.


The objective of this review was to provide reliable evidence regarding the effectiveness of prescribing systemic antibiotics for irreversible pulpitis by comparing clinical outcomes expressed as pain relief.


We searched the following databases: Cochrane Oral Health Group Trials Register and Pain, Palliative Care and Supportive (PaPaS) Care Group Trials Register to 6th September 2004; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) The Cochrane Library Issue 3 2004; MEDLINE (1966 to 6th September 2004); EMBASE (1980 to week 36 2004).


This review includes one randomised controlled trial which compared pain relief with systemic antibiotics and analgesics, against placebo and analgesics in the acute preoperative phase of irreversible pulpitis.


Only one trial is included in this review, therefore pooling of data from studies was not possible and a descriptive summary is presented.


One trial involving 40 participants was included in this review. There was a close parallel distribution of the pain ratings in both the intervention and placebo groups over the 7 day study period. The between-group differences in sum pain intensity differences (SPID) for the penicillin group were (6.0+/-10.5), and for placebo (6.0+/-9.5) P = 0.776. The sum pain percussion intensity differences (SPPID) for the penicillin group were (3.5+/-7.5) and placebo (2.0+/-7.0) P = 0.290, with differences as assessed by the Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon test considered to be statistically significant at P < 0.05. There was no significant difference in the mean total number of ibuprofen tablets (P = 0.839) and Tylenol tablets (P = 0.325), in either group over the study period. The administration of penicillin over placebo did not appear to significantly reduce the quantity of analgesic medication taken (P > 0.05) for irreversible pulpitis.


This review which was based on one methodologically sound but low powered small sample trial provided some evidence that there is no significant difference in pain relief for patients with untreated irreversible pulpitis who did or did not receive antibiotics in addition to analgesics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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