Dental antibiotics and referrals in general medical practice: Wales 1974–2017

Charlotte C. Currie, Simon J. Stone, Paul Brocklehurst, Wendy Thompson, Justin Durham, Mark S. Pearce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This study aimed to explore trends and predictors for antibiotic prescriptions and referrals for patients seeking dental care at General Medical Practitioners (GMPs) over a 44-year period in Wales, UK. Methods: This retrospective observational study analysed data from the nationwide Secure Anonymised Information Linkage Databank of visits to GMPs. Read codes associated with dental diagnoses were extracted from 1974-2017. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, univariate and multivariable logistic regression. Results: Over the 44-year period, there were a total of 160,952 antibiotic prescriptions and 2,947 referrals associated with a dental attendance. Antibiotic prescriptions were associated with living in the most deprived (OR 0.91, 95% CI 0.89-0.93) or rural (OR 0.83, 95% CI 0.82-0.84) areas, whereas referrals were associated with living in an urban area (OR 2.16, 95% CI 1.99-2.35) or rural and less deprived area (OR 1.71, 95% CI 1.26-2.33). The number of antibiotic prescriptions decreased over time whereas the number of referrals increased. Conclusions: These changes coincide with dental attendance rates at GMPs over the same period and indicate that appointment outcome and repeat patient attendance are linked. Rurality and deprivation may also influence care provided. Clinical Significance: General medical practices are not the most appropriate place for patients seeking dental care to attend, and efforts should be made to change current practice and policy to support patients to seek care from dental practices. When patients do seek dental care from GMPs they should be encouraged to refer the patient to a dentist rather than prescribe antibiotics as an important element of national antimicrobial stewardship efforts, as well as to discourage repeat attendance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104446
JournalJournal of Dentistry
Early online date7 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Antibacterial agents
  • Dental care
  • Dental health services
  • Epidemiology
  • Health services research
  • Toothache


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