Clindamycin is an antibiotic doctors prescribe to treat tooth infections, particularly if you’re allergic to penicillin. It’s safe for most people but may cause digestive side effects, and should start to work within 1–2 days.
It’s generally given as an oral antibiotic, but you may need intravenous clindamycin for severe tooth infections.
Left untreated, tooth infections can quickly spread to other areas, so it’s important to ensure you fully understand the treatment plan recommended by your doctor.
Read on to learn more about taking clindamycin for a tooth infection, including how long it takes to start working.
Penicillin antibiotics, such as penicillin or amoxicillin, are most commonly used to treat tooth infections.
Clindamycin can be useful if you’re allergic to or haven’t had success with penicillin antibiotics.
It’s also active against a variety of bacteria. This is important when it comes to tooth infections, which often involve several types of bacteria.
You’ll likely be prescribed a seven-day course of clindamycin for a tooth infection. On each of those seven days, you’ll likely need to take a dose every six hours or so.
There may be one or two capsules in a dose. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions provided with your prescription.
You can take clindamycin either before or after eating. Some people experience throat irritation when taking clindamycin, but following the dose with a full glass of water can help you avoid this.
Once you start taking clindamycin, you’ll likely notice an improvement in your symptoms after a day or two. If your symptoms aren’t improving at all or seem to be getting worse after taking clindamycin for a few days, follow up with your healthcare provider.
Make sure you take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor, even if you start to feel better before finishing them. Otherwise, you may not kill all of the bacteria, which can lead to recurring infections and antibiotic resistance.
Allergic reactions to clindamycin are rare. If you develop any kind of rash while taking clindamycin, contact your healthcare provider — this may be a sign of a drug allergy.
In rare cases, it’s possible to have a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
Symptoms typically appear within 30 minutes of taking a drug and can include:
- itchy hives and welts
- swollen throat, which can cause wheezing and trouble with breathing or swallowing
- chest tightness
- abdominal cramps
- passing out
- feelings of doom
While the risk of having an anaphylactic reaction to clindamycin is low, it’s important to know how to recognize the signs. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
Taking clindamycin can cause a range of side effects, including:
- nausea or vomiting
- loss of appetite
You can help to reduce nausea and vomiting by sticking with a simple, bland diet while taking clindamycin. Avoid spicy or rich foods that may irritate your stomach. Taking a probiotic, which may help to replenish beneficial bacteria in your gut, may also minimize side effects.
If you experience frequent, watery diarrhea while taking clindamycin, contact your healthcare provider before taking another dose. In rare cases, taking clindamycin can increase your risk of infection with Clostridium difficile.
C. diff happens when the balance of bacteria in your intestines is disrupted, such as during antibiotic treatment. This can cause the bacteria to grow out of control, which can potentially lead to a serious infection.
Symptoms of C. diff to watch for include:
- watery diarrhea up to 15 times per day that may contain blood or pus
- severe abdominal pain
- low-grade fever
- loss of appetite
Clindamycin is safe for most people, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re breastfeeding, keep an eye out for any signs of diarrhea or diaper rash in your child.
Before taking clindamycin, make sure to tell your provider about any previous allergic reactions you’ve had to medications. Also tell them if you have a digestive or bowel condition that causes diarrhea.
Clindamycin may interact with some other medications, so be sure to tell them if you’re also taking:
- anti-diarrheal medications that contain the active ingredients loperamide and diphenoxylate/atropine
- muscle relaxants that contain the active ingredients pancuronium and tubocurarine
Not every tooth infection requires antibiotic treatment. If you do have a tooth infection that requires antibiotics and you’re allergic to penicillin or penicillin treatment hasn’t been effective, you may be prescribed clindamycin.
Your course of antibiotics should last about a week and you’ll typically have to take one or two pills every six hours. To prevent the infection from coming back, make sure to take the full dose of antibiotics as prescribed.