Microbiologic and antibiotic aspects of infections in the oral and maxillofacial region

R. N. Greenberg, R. B. James, R. L. Marier, W. H. Wood, C. V. Sanders, J. N. Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


An overview of infection as it applies to the oral and maxillofacial region has been provided. The following conclusions are drawn: odontogenic infections are caused by microbes found in the host's oral flora; cultures of purulent material generally will yield three to six anaerobes and one aerobe, (the aerobe is usually a Streptococcus species); Gram stains of purulent material can aid in therapeutic strategies; anaerobic as well as aerobic cultures are necessary to isolate all pathogens; pathogens found in infections of bite wounds reflect the oral flora of the aggressor; early postoperative wound infections are caused by the host's own flora, whereas later infections may be caused by hospital-acquired bacteria; and hepatitis B and herpes simplex virus are occupational hazards. Recommendations have been made for antimicrobial prophylaxis and for treatment. We recognize that some of these selections may be controversial. For instance, the value of prophylactic antibiotics in orthognathic surgery is not well defined; recommendations were made only in certain instances. However, in severe penetrating maxillofacial injuries with devitalized tissue, recommendations for antibiotics were for broad and prolonged coverage. In this instance, use of antibiotics is considered therapeutic and not prophylactic. In each instance, we tried to validate the selection. Our rationale has been to choose the antibiotics most active against the likely pathogens; additionally, consideration was given to drug toxicity and adverse reactions. We regard penicillin as the preferred agent for prophylaxis and treatment of most odontogenic infections. Alternative drugs include cephalosporins, doxycycline, and clindamycin. Erythromycin and tetracycline are considered less effective than the former agents. Finally, we believe that successful treatment of infection depends as much on changing the microenvironment of the infected tissue by debridement and drainage as on appropriate antimicrobial therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-884
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Oral Surgery
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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