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Brand name: Zithromax

Description: Azithromycin is an antibiotic. It is related to erythromycin, but it lasts longer.

Dental uses: Dentists use this drug for people who are allergic to penicillins and who also need antibiotics before dental treatment. These people are at risk of developing bacterial endocarditis. This is a serious heart infection. It can be fatal. People at risk for this bacterial infection take antibiotics before dental treatments that tend to cause bleeding. People at risk include those who have:

  • Artificial heart valves
  • A history of endocarditis
  • Certain forms of congenital heart disease
  • A transplanted heart that has developed valve disease

Bleeding can occur in treatments that:

  • Puncture or cut into mouth tissue
  • Manipulate the gums or the area around a tooth root

Azithromycin also is given to people who have abscesses and other dental infections. It is used especially for infections in the sinuses, gums and bone. Azithromycin can be used when other antibiotics have not worked.

Dosages for dental purposes: The recommended dose for preventing endocarditis is 500 milligrams. It should be taken 30 to 60 minutes before the dental treatment. For dental infections, the dose is 500 milligrams on the first day and 250 milligrams a day for the next 5 days. Doses for children are based on body weight.

As with all medicines, be sure to follow your doctor's prescription. Take azithromycin for the prescribed length of time, even if you start to feel better. Do not stop taking it without talking to your doctor. Stopping an antibiotic too soon may cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. This means the antibiotics won't work the next time.

Concerns and possible side effects: Tell your dentist and physician about all the medicines you take. This should include over-the-counter vitamins and herbal supplements. Also, let your dentist know if you have had a sensitive or allergic reaction to any medicine. If you are pregnant or nursing, or might be pregnant, talk to your primary care doctor before starting any new medicine. This also includes vitamins and supplements.

Side effects of azithromycin include diarrhea, headache, nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Azithromycin costs more than erythromycin.

There is a small risk for a serious heart condition (torsade de pointes) in patients who take azithromycin. So far, azithromycin has not been shown to cause as many drug interactions as erythromycin or clarithromycin. If you take azithromycin and begin to have difficulty breathing or swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat, get medical help right away.

Azithromycin can make you sunburn more easily. Be cautious with exposure to sunlight while taking this drug. Wear protective clothing and use sunblock when you are outdoors. Avoid tanning beds.

Tell your doctor about any reaction to a prescribed medicine, no matter how minor it might be.

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