You may have been told you need to take a course of antibiotics before going ahead with certain types of dental treatment. This could be for such treatment as a root canal or a tooth extraction. This is because bacteria present in the mouth could enter the bloodstream. Any bacteria that find their way in and around the heart could infect one or more heart valves, even the heart’s lining, which could result in an inflammation taking place. When inflammation is present, infective endocarditis (IE) could arise which could potentially be catastrophic leading to serious medical outcomes, including heart valve leakage and heart failure. Treatment with antibiotics should help to stop bacteria release into your bloodstream.
Controlling bacteria in the mouth
The mouth is rife with bacteria which thrive off the remnants of food and drink that enter the mouth. Overall, a healthy body can handle this sort of bacterial invasion that’s constantly present in the mouth. As long as you regularly floss and brush your teeth, much of the bacteria remain relatively harmless.
However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Sometimes, bacteria that are present in the mouth of a person whose immune system has lost some of its ability to control the effects of bacteria can lead to them entering the bloodstream where an infection could occur. The mouth is far more vulnerable to bacteria entering the bloodstream when dental work is being undertaken on the teeth, so sometimes your dentist may recommend taking antibiotics before any dental treatment commences. This “antibiotic prophylaxis” is basically taken for preventative reasons, not curative.
Who is likely to benefit from the use of antibiotic prophylaxis?
Generally, your dentist may recommend antibiotic prophylaxis if you suffer from a heart problem, such as:
- the presence of one or more artificial heart valves;
- a history showing you have suffered from of an infection affecting the heart valves or the lining of the heart which is called infective endocarditis;
- you have already had a heart transplant and a problem has developed with one of the heart’s valves.
There are several other situations when antibiotic prophylaxis may be recommended, including:
- a heart condition that has been with you since the day you were born which include cyanotic congenital heart disease, the first 6 months following a heart defect repair using a prosthetic device or material put into place surgically
- situations where a heart defect has been fixed but there is a residual defect still present at that site or close to a prosthetic device or patch which has been used to undertake the repair.
Dosage of antibiotic prophylaxis
If there is any chance of developing infective endocarditis (IE) during dental treatment the recommended dose of antibiotic prophylaxis is one dose by mouth in a pill or liquid form 1 hour before commencement of the dental treatment and no further doses are required after that.
Talk to your dentist about antibiotic prophylaxis
If you believe you should be taking antibiotic prophylaxis before dental treatment talk to your dentist who will give you the advice you need.