Can You Use Fish Antibiotics To Safely Treat Human Teeth Infections?

It has come to my attention that fish antibiotics sold in pet stores are being used to treat human teeth infections.

Treating teeth infections by self-medicating with fish antibiotics can never be recommended. There are several compelling reasons for discouraging people from buying over-the-counter antibiotics intended for fish and ingesting them themselves.

Teeth infections need to be professionally treated.

Teeth infections need to be properly diagnosed and assessed by a dentist or doctor. The prognosis for a tooth abscess is very good, provided it is treated quickly and effectively. However, delayed or incorrectly treated dental infections can rapidly evolve and spread in and between spaces in the face and neck and cause serious complications or even death.

Emergency rooms are commonly presented with serious dental abscesses that resulted from patients ignoring the warning symptoms or trying to manage the treatment themselves.

Dental abscesses are usually complications of tooth decay, gum disease, or dental trauma. Our mouths are full of bacteria and when there is an overgrowth of these bacteria, they can infect both the hard and soft tissues inside the mouth.

Although antibiotics can play an important part in the treatment plan, they don’t cure the infection alone. They simply help reduce the bacterial load. They reduce the infection to alleviate pain, stop the spread, reduce the danger from the infection, and get you to a point where you’re comfortable undergoing the necessary dental treatment. 

If a person self-diagnoses a tooth infection and self-medicates with fish antibiotics, they might be incorrectly treating the condition. Some people have toothache pain that has nothing to do with bacteria. For instance, you could have a cracked tooth that is not infected but needs a different kind of dental treatment, and it could give some of the same symptoms as a tooth infection, so you might be treating the wrong problem. It is therefore important to seek the advice of a dentist or doctor who will determine if the condition is bacterial in nature and which antibiotics, if any, are necessary.

Inadequate or unsuitable antibiotics correspond with cases of progressive teeth infections.

Research has shown that the use of inadequate or inappropriate antibiotics is one of the factors that contribute to the spread of infection. Consumers who use unprescribed antibiotics like fish antibiotics are unlikely to have the knowledge and training to know the safest and most effective antibiotic for their particular condition. That’s where the dentist and your pharmacist come in. It is important to understand how antibiotics interact with other medications and other health concerns. So not everyone is a candidate for taking fish antibiotics, they may not be safe for some people with various health conditions, or other prescription medications. The antibiotic treatment that a dentist or doctor prescribes will be based on a number of factors particular to the patient’s diagnosis, general health, medical history, and the types of bacteria involved with the infection.

Using antibiotics without dental treatment will fail.

Someone who takes fish antibiotics to self-treat a tooth infection and begins to feel better can be lulled into a false sense of security, that everything’s going to be fine. When in truth, they still really need to see a dentist. Antibiotics should be used in conjunction with dental therapy that removes the underlying source of the infection.

Fish antibiotics are not approved by the FDA.

Fish antibiotics are not regulated by the FDA. So, we have no way of validating the quality, purity, or potency of the antibiotics that are placed into these capsules. There are a number of important antibiotics available for ornamental pet fish including – amoxicillin (Fish Mox), ampicillin (Fish Cillin), cephalexin (Fish Flex), metronidazole (Fish Zole), tetracycline (Bio-Tet) ciprofloxacin (Fish Flox), penicillin (Fish Pen), clindamycin (Fish Cin), doxycycline (Fish Doxy), erythromycin (Fish Mycin), and trimethoprim-sulfa (Fish Sulfa).

We also don’t know how much care is taken with the transportation and storage of these drugs. Pharmacists will ensure that all prescription drugs are kept in the optimum environment but there is no guarantee that pet stores will do the same.

And so, there’s a lot of concern about the safety of these antibiotics, they’re fine to keep the bacteria out of your fish tank. That’s a whole different story from keeping an infection from progressing in your jawbone

Why do people use fish antibiotics?

There are a couple of different reasons people buy over-the-counter fish antibiotics to self-treat teeth infections. One is to save money; it costs money to go to the doctor or dentist and have an evaluation and receive that prescription for the antibiotics. But many people may choose to go this route because they fear the dentist. They don’t want to go to a dental appointment. They want to take care of the problem on their own. They think that they can manage it on their own. And so, if they read on the internet that all you have to do is go to the pet store and buy this antibiotic, and that will take care of your infection. Many people assume that this is a much less expensive route that does not require a dental appointment. So, if people are busy, if they are afraid, or if they’re concerned about finances, this may be something that they will explore as an option.

Antibiotic resistance

Penicillin was widely regarded as a wonder drug when it became available for general use in the 1940s. Antibiotics had such a dramatic impact on bacterial infections that In 1967 the US general surgeon stated to congress that “It’s time to close the book on infectious diseases, declare the war against pestilence won, and shift national resources to such chronic problems as cancer and heart”. However, in the decades that followed, bacterial infections have regained the upper hand with some strains of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is now posing a significant risk to global health. If more and more strains of bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, common illnesses like teeth infections will become far more serious and difficult to treat. Many complex surgeries and cancer treatments rely on antibiotic support and without this precious drug, the success rate of modern medical procedures will decline.
Antibiotic misuse is one of the reasons
responsible for growing resistance. The uncontrolled use of non-prescription antibiotics for the treatment of teeth infections can certainly be classed as antibiotic misuse.


1 / Teeth infections can develop into serious medical conditions if they are not treated quickly and effectively.
2 / Ornamental fish antibiotics should never be used as a substitute for antibiotics prescribed by a doctor or dentist.
3 / Prescription antibiotics should only be used when necessary in conjunction with dental treatment to remove the tooth infection source.

4 / Fish antibiotics are not regulated by the FDA.
5 / The misuse of antibiotics can contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Dr. Lara Coseo

Dr. Lara Coseo, (DDS, FAGD) is a 2004 graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas. Having practiced general dentistry for 13 years, Dr. Lara currently serves as an Associate Professor at Texas A&M College of Dentistry.

Can You Use Fish Antibiotics To Safely Treat Human Teeth Infections?
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Can You Use Fish Antibiotics To Safely Treat Human Teeth Infections?
It has become common practice for humans to use fish antibiotics to treat common infections like teeth abscesses. But is it safe? Dr. Lara Coseo DDS, FAGD tells us the truth about using fish antibiotics.
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