How effective is taking cephalexin for tooth infection?

Cephalexin for tooth infections
Medically reviewed by Dr. Asim Cheema


Tooth infection can be painful and can cause potentially serious health risks if left untreated. Stemming from dental issues like cavities or gum disease, an abscessed tooth can lead to bacterial spread to the face, bones, or bloodstream. Addressing such infections requires antibiotics; among them, cephalexin—known as Daxbia or Keflex—stands out. Antibiotics, including cephalexin, work by blocking bacterial growth to resolve the infection and its symptoms. While cephalexin proves effective in treating dental infections, it’s essential to acknowledge its side effects and risks. This blog explores the effectiveness of cephalexin for tooth infections, covering its benefits, dosage guidelines, and the duration of treatment.  

Will cephalexin treat an abscessed tooth?

Yes, Cephalexin is an antibiotic that can treat a tooth abscess caused by a bacterial infection. As a member of the cephalosporins antibiotics group, Cephalexin plays a crucial role in combating bacterial infections within the body. Its mechanism of action involves disrupting the formation of bacteria’s cell walls, leading to rupture and eventual bacterial death. This targeted approach makes Cephalexin an effective choice for treating abscessed teeth, providing relief by eliminating the underlying bacterial infection. Understanding how Cephalexin operates at the cellular level sheds light on its potential to address the specific challenges posed by tooth abscesses and gum infections.

Suffering from throbbing jaw pain due to a tooth abscess?  Get rid of the infection and contain its spread with Cephalexin.

How long does it take for cephalexin to work on a tooth infection?

The typical duration of action for cephalexin to work for a tooth infection is 3-7 days. However, patience is key regarding the effectiveness of medications, and cephalexin for a tooth infection is no exception. Adhering to your provider’s instructions during cephalexin treatment typically yields improvement within a few days. However, if you do not see improvement after the initial days, encounter severe side effects, or, worse, feel a deterioration in your condition, it is advised to seek medical advice from your healthcare provider. Timely intervention ensures that any concerns or complications are addressed, optimizing the effectiveness of the treatment plan.

How much cephalexin should I take for a gum infection?

For adults dealing with a tooth infection, the usual dosage ranges from 1 to 4 grams of cephalexin per day. This total is divided into multiple doses throughout the day, with common prescriptions being 250 milligrams taken four times a day or 500 milligrams two to three times a day. In instances of more severe tooth infections, especially those extending to the bones, alternative antibiotics or adjusted dosages may be necessary. To optimize absorption, taking cephalexin on an empty stomach at approximately the same time daily is recommended. Consistency in timing aids in maintaining steady medication levels.

What are the benefits of taking cephalexin for toothache?

Antibiotic medications become a crucial tool in your healthcare provider’s arsenal when suffering from a bacterial infection, be it in your mouth or elsewhere. Antibiotics operate by blocking the formation of bacteria’s cell walls, effectively eradicating germs, and halting the infection and its accompanying symptoms. Cephalexin, belonging to the cephalosporins class of antibiotics, emerges as a valuable option for specific scenarios.

Cephalexin proves its efficacy in treating dental abscesses and gum infections. Its mechanism of action aligns with the broader goal of antibiotics—eliminating bacterial culprits responsible for the infection and relieving associated symptoms.

What happens if tooth infection spreads to the jaw?

However, the consequences of untreated tooth infections extending to the jaw underscore the urgency of effective treatment. Tooth infections reaching the jawbone can lead to severe dental abscesses and jawbone infections, causing persistent pain, jaw stiffness, swelling, and tenderness. 

Notably, osteomyelitis in the jaw can occur, emphasizing the critical need for timely intervention. Furthermore, the potential for bacterial infections originating in the teeth to spread to the bloodstream raises the chances of sepsis, where the infection triggers a chain of reactions, further complicating the infection. 

Untreated tooth infections can affect the brain and heart. Avoid the risk of complications with timely treatment.

Is amoxicillin or cephalexin better for tooth infection?

The decision between amoxicillin and cephalexin for a tooth infection involves weighing their similarities and differences in effectiveness and potential side effects. Both antibiotics share efficacy in treating various conditions, including urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and infections affecting the teeth or gums.

Common Uses: Amoxicillin and cephalexin exhibit effectiveness in many overlapping applications, making them versatile choices for certain bacterial infections.

Potential Side Effects: While both antibiotics serve similar purposes, it’s crucial to note that they may present distinct side effects. Amoxicillin, for instance, can lead to side effects such as heartburn, insomnia, itching, confusion, easy bruising or bleeding, and allergic reactions. Understanding these differences aids in making an informed decision based on individual health considerations.

Factors such as the specific nature of the infection, individual health history, and potential allergies should guide the choice between amoxicillin and cephalexin. A personalized approach ensures optimal efficacy and minimizes the risk of adverse reactions, highlighting the importance of seeking professional advice when determining the most suitable antibiotic for a tooth infection.

A tooth infection can result in the loss of a tooth if neglected. Get rid of pain and swelling with antibiotic treatment

Consult a doctor

While considering the use of antibiotics such as cephalexin or amoxicillin for a tooth infection, it is important to prioritize your health and well-being. Always consult a doctor before initiating any antibiotic treatment. Additionally, it is crucial to be vigilant for potential signs of a serious allergic reaction, which necessitates immediate medical attention. 

Pay close attention to symptoms like rash, itching, and swelling, particularly affecting the face, tongue, or throat. Severe dizziness and difficulty breathing are warning signs that should not be ignored. In terms of health, neglecting the vital signs your body is giving you can be lethal. Therefore, don’t ignore the symptoms and consult a doctor immediately if you experience unusual symptoms 

Other FAQs about cephalexin for tooth infection

Is 500 mg 4 times a day of cephalexin a lot?

The dosage of cephalexin varies based on the specific condition being treated. Typically, for most infections, adults are prescribed 500mg of cephalexin, taken 2 or 3 times a day. The frequency and amount may be adjusted depending on the severity of the infection, and children may be prescribed lower doses.

Is it safe to take two cephalexin tablets at the same time?

No, it is not safe to take two doses of cephalexin simultaneously. If a dose is missed, it’s advised not to double up on the next dose to compensate. Taking extra doses can lead to an increased risk of side effects. If you find it challenging to remember doses, consider setting an alarm as a reminder.

Is cephalexin 500 mg a strong antibiotic?

Yes, cephalexin is considered a strong and effective antibiotic, particularly in the treatment of streptococcal and staphylococcal skin infections. Despite its long history of use, cephalexin has maintained its efficacy, with cure rates consistently exceeding 90%. It remains a valuable option for various bacterial infections.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Aljammali, Dr Zainab Mahmood, and Dr Aseel Mahmood Jwad. “Review On Sensitive Teeth And Antibiotics For Tooth Abscess.” International Journal of Endodontology & Research (IJER) 1 1,(2015), 1 12.
  • Ahmadi, Hanie, Alireza Ebrahimi, and Fatemeh Ahmadi. “Antibiotic therapy in dentistry.” International journal of dentistry 2021 (2021).
  • Banerjee, K., Kakkar, A., Shamsi, K.A. et al. Effectiveness of Oral Cephalexin-Clavulanic Acid, Cefuroxime, and Amoxicillin-Clavulanic Acid in the Management of Dental Infections: A Real-World, Retrospective, Electronic Medical Record-Based Study in India. Drugs – Real World Outcomes (2023).

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