Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic brought about seismic change for dentistry including the direction to provide remote advice and prescribe analgesia and antimicrobials. The possibilities for care have widened, but the impact of both restrictions and remobilisation on antibiotic prescribing is not known.

Aims: To report the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and remobilisation on dental antibiotic prescriptions and explore dentists' intentions and attitudes towards antibiotic prescribing.

Design and setting: Public Health Scotland national prescribing and claims data are reported alongside an online survey of Scottish general and public health service dentists including closed and open-ended questions.

Results: Antibiotic prescribing rose by 49% following the suspension of routine dental care, to a peak of 34,993 antibiotics (July 2020). The data also show that since the remobilisation of NHS dental care, antibiotic prescribing remains raised at levels around 28% higher than pre-pandemic. The survey highlights dentists' frustrations and concerns about this increased use of antibiotics. Most dentists intend to reduce their prescribing; however, significant challenges to this being realised were raised.

Conclusions: The previous success within dentistry to protect against the development of antimicrobial resistance has suffered a knock-back during the pandemic. A renewed focus on reducing unnecessary antibiotics within dentistry is required but, crucially, needs to be approached sensitively alongside the current backdrop of challenges within the service.


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Cite as

Duncan, E., Goulao, B., Clarkson, J., Young, L. & Ramsay, C. 2021, ''You had to do something': prescribing antibiotics in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and remobilisation', British Dental Journal. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-021-3621-8

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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