Periodontal disease can be caused by a number of factors including plaque and bacteria, genetics and smoking. Before even considering antibiotics to treat forms of periodontal disease, it must be remembered that:

  • Treatment RELIES on patient co-operation and their home-care
  • Non-surgical treatment, i.e. root surface debridement (RSD), must be considered first
  • Surgical treatment may need to be considered at some point


Systemic antibiotics are only ever an adjunct to the above treatments and they should never be used on their own. Situations in which they may be used include:

  • Aggressive Periodontitis
  • Acute Necrotising Ulcerative Gingivitis/Periodontitis
  • Periodontal Abscesses
  • (Refractory and recurrent periodontitis) – old terminology
  • (Guided tissue regeneration)

Note: very rarely are antibiotics used for chronic periodontitis!

The options

The options for antimicrobial that we use include:

  • Azithromycin
  • Tetracyclines
  • Metronidazole
  • Amoxicillin (usually prescribed with metronidazole)


Always consult a BNF (or equivalent drug formulary) if you are unsure with dosages. The following dosages/drugs are ones that I have been taught and picked up – caution should be advised!

Aggressive Periodontitis

The latest guidance is to prescribe Azithromycin 500mg, OD for 3 days. The drug has a long half life and so remains in the system longer, as well as being easier for a patient to be compliant with. An issue with Azithromycin is the potential interaction with statins and subsequent development of rhabdomyolysis. Therefore, it is advised that if the patient is on statins then the GP should be consulted to decide on whether the statins can be stopped for a few day.

Alternative regimes include:

  • Metronidazole 400/500mg, TDS for 7 days, along with Amoxicillin 500mg, TDS for 7 days – compliance is an issue!
  • Tetracycline 500mg, TDS for 3 weeks


Periodontal Abscess

The ideal situation with an abscess is to achieve some form of drainage, and with periodontal abscesses, often this can be achieved by RSD in the pockets surrounding the abscess. However, antibiotics may be given in some situations i.e. if there is systemic involvement or spreading infection. Drugs that may be prescribed include:

  • Azithromycin
  • Metronidazole
  • Co-amoxiclav

Acute Necrotising Ulcerative Gingivitis/Periodontitis (ANUG/P)

The standard treatment regime for this involves prescribing the patient metronidazole (over 200mg TDS), hydrogen peroxide/chlorhexidine mouthwash and going through thorough oral hygiene instruction.

 Advantages of Antibiotics

  • Evidence shows they work in certain conditions e.g. Aggressive Periodontitis
  • Target multiple sites easily
  • Low overall cost
  • Less clinical time needed to treat

Disadvantages of Antibiotics

  • Major unwanted side effects, especially gastrointestinal
  • Increased antibiotic resistance
  • Allergies
  • Heavily reliant on patient compliance


  • Antibiotics should only be used as an adjunct to treatment in periodontal diseases
  • Rarely prescribed in chronic periodontitis
  • Options include metronidazole, azithromycin and amoxicillin
  • Dosages and regimes vary between different conditions

References and Recommended Reading

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