A new study in the Journal of the American Dental Association shows that dentistry’s share of antibiotic use in healthcare has grown significantly. In 1996, dentistry accounted for 6.7% of antibiotic use. By 2013, its share was 11.3%. This results from both a decline of antibiotic use in medicine and a real growth in dentistry. Indeed, dental prescribing increased 62.2% over this 17 year period.

In a time when healthcare is weening itself off of antibiotics for very good reasons, this trend in dentistry is alarming.

So what might be the factors? It seems from this study it is an aging patient with more infections at the tooth root, more dental implants, a slow response to new guidelines calling for less perioperative antibiotic use in patients with valvular heart disease and prosthetic joints, new cosmetic procedures, and substitution of antibiotics for surgery for the under-insured.

Medicine’s use of antibiotics has declined by 18% since 1996. For the sake of public health, dentistry needs to follow the lead of physicians. Cosmetics and implants are, after all, elective procedures.