Amoxicillin For a Tooth Infection: Benefits & Side Effects

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed
September 17, 2021

Are you experiencing a jaw ache, toothache, swollen gums, or pain when you chew?

If so, you may have a tooth infection. Also known as a dental abscess, a tooth infection occurs when bacteria infects either gum tissue or the area around the tooth’s root.

An abscessed tooth may occur after dental work, or it may stem from poor oral health.

A tooth infection can be treated in different ways depending on its severity, and it’s important to seek care from a dentist or doctor, who can recommend the proper management. 

One way dentists treat a tooth infection is with antibiotics, a type of medication that stops bacterial growth.

Amoxicillin, a penicillin class antibiotic, treats many types of bacterial infections, including tooth infections. It typically helps to resolve tooth infection symptoms within a few days, but as with all medications, amoxicillin may also cause side effects.

Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing unwanted side effects, or if your tooth infection isn’t improving or is getting worse with treatment. 

In this article, I’ll cover the benefits of taking amoxicillin for a tooth infection.

I’ll outline the dosage you’ll take, how long it will take for the antibiotics to work, and potential side effects.

Finally, I’ll discuss whether amoxicillin is safe, including populations that shouldn’t take this medicine. 

Benefits of Taking Amoxicillin For a Tooth Infection 

All antibiotics work by stopping the growth of bacteria that cause an infection, which can also alleviate your pain.

Amoxicillin, a type of antibiotic known as a penicillin class antibiotic, is one of the most common antibiotics prescribed by doctors; for that reason, it’s considered a “front-line” antibiotic.

Other front-line antibiotics include penicillin, cephalexin, clindamycin, and azithromycin.

Along with treating pneumonia, bronchitis, urinary tract infections, and ear infections, amoxicillin also works well for tooth infections.

While a mild abscessed tooth may resolve on its own, dentists often prescribe amoxicillin if they’re concerned the infection could spread, or when a patient has a weakened immune system.

There are many types of antibiotics that work for tooth infection, but amoxicillin is one of the most common because of how effective it is against the type of bacteria involved.

Compared to other antibiotics, amoxicillin also generally causes fewer major side effects, making it a great first option for treating an abscessed tooth.

Dosage Information 

How much amoxicillin your dentist prescribes and how long you take it depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your infection. 

Amoxicillin comes in a few forms. Your dentist may prescribe it as a capsule, tablet, or a suspension (liquid).

Typically, people take amoxicillin twice a day, or every 12 hours, either with or without food.

For adults, teenagers, and kids who weigh more than 88 pounds, the most common dose is 250-500 mg taken every eight hours, or 500-875 mg every 12 hours.

No matter how much you’re taking, aim to take your amoxicillin at the same time each day.

If you miss a dose of amoxicillin, just take it as soon as possible; however, if you’re close to your next dose, skip the missed dose.

Don’t double a dose to make up for a missed one.

Always take the full course of amoxicillin, even if your infected tooth starts to feel better.

Stopping amoxicillin (or any antibiotic) too soon can result in bacteria that’s resistant to future antibiotic treatment. 

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How Long Does Amoxicillin Take to Work on a Tooth Infection? 

Antibiotics work relatively quickly to resolve tooth infections and control symptoms.

If you follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, the effects of antibiotics should take effect within a few days. 

While you wait for your antibiotics to work, your dentist may recommend you take pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to manage the symptoms.

Sometimes, dentists also suggest patients use a salt water mouthwash to relieve discomfort from a tooth infection.

If the antibiotic medication doesn’t resolve the infection, a dentist may recommend another procedure to remove the infected tissue, such as a root canal or a tooth extraction.

Make sure to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional if you’re not feeling better after a week, or if your symptoms are getting worse.

Potential Side Effects

Antibiotic treatment is a common and safe way to treat dental infections, but they may cause side effects.

Most often, people experience gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort while taking antibiotics.

Common side effects of amoxicillin include: 

In rare cases, some people may experience severe side effects from amoxicillin, including an allergic reaction. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately: 

  • Seizures
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Hives
  • Jaundice
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea with or without a fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling in the face, throat, tongue, lips, or eyes

Is Amoxicillin Safe?

Because untreated dental infections can cause serious complications, such as an infection spreading to the body, it’s important to seek dental treatment if you suspect that you have one.

In general, amoxicillin is a commonly prescribed, safe antibiotic used for treating various different infections, including an abscessed tooth. 

But as with all medications, amoxicillin can come with risks — and it’s not suitable for all people. 

If you have a penicillin allergy, amoxicillin isn’t safe for you to take. In addition, you should let your healthcare provider know if you’re allergic to any of the below drugs so they can prescribe another type of antibiotic if necessary:

  • Cephalosporin antibiotics 
  • Any ingredients in amoxicillin capsules, tablets, or liquid
  • Any other medications

Because amoxicillin can negatively interact with other drugs and supplements, you should always tell your healthcare provider if you take any of these medications: 

  • Allopurinol 
  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants)
  • Oral contraceptives (birth control)
  • Probenecid
  • Other antibiotics

Amoxicillin may also cause complications if you’ve ever had or currently have any of the below medical conditions: 

  • Mononucleosis 
  • Kidney disease
  • Asthma
  • Hay fever
  • Hives

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers amoxicillin a class B drug during pregnancy, which means it’s not likely to cause any complications for unborn babies.

But if you’re prescribed amoxicillin, it’s still important to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to get pregnant, or you’re breastfeeding.

If you become pregnant while you’re taking amoxicillin, tell your medical provider that, too. 

If you have any upcoming lab tests at the doctor’s office, tell your provider you’re taking amoxicillin.

Antibiotics, including amoxicillin, can sometimes alter lab results. 

It’s also important to drink alcohol sparingly if you’re taking amoxicillin, as alcohol may increase your risk of side effects. 

How K Health Can Help

If you think you’re suffering from a tooth infection, you don’t have to suffer through the pain—or take the risk of an infection spreading to the body. Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.