Simple Steps To Better Dental Health
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Featuring consumer information from Columbia School of Dental & Oral Surgery
Oral Health Made Simple: Your Prescription For Knowledge
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Common brand names: Flagyl, Metryl

Description: Metronidazole is an antimicrobial drug. It was introduced in 1959 to treat parasitic disease.

Dental uses: Metronidazole is usually used to treat infections caused by anaerobic bacteria. These are bacteria that do not require oxygen to survive. It also may be used alone to treat a dental infection called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG). It also may be combined with penicillin VK, amoxicillin or other antibiotics to treat infected jaw fractures and other infections.

Dosages for dental purposes: The typical adult dose of metronidazole is 250 milligrams to 750 milligrams every 8 hours. It is prescribed for 7 to 10 days.

As with all medicines, be sure to follow your doctor's prescription. Take metronidazole 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 include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Dry mouth

Less common side effects include irritation and ulcers of the tongue, gums and inner cheeks. Tell your doctor about any reaction to a prescribed medicine, no matter how minor it might be.

Do not drink alcohol while taking this drug. The combination can produce headaches, flushing of the face, heart palpitations, nausea and vomiting. You should also avoid alcohol for three days before and after you take metronidazole.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given this drug a black-box warning. This is a warning on the package insert about possible serious side effects. The black-box warning for metronidazole cautions that it "has been shown to be carcinogenic [cancer-causing] in mice and rats." It recommends using the drug only as needed.

Metronidazole can increase the toxicity of certain drugs, including the manic-depressive medicine lithium (Eskalith) and the blood-thinning agent warfarin (Coumadin). Metronidazole can also interact with medicines used to lower cholesterol. These and other potential drug interactions can be serious.

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