A healthy mouth supports a healthy heart. Good oral hygiene habits combined with regular visits to your Dental Hygienist are especially important if you have a heart condition.

Your Dental Hygienist takes your detailed health history, because your cardiac specialist may need to be consulted before certain dental hygiene procedures can be done safely.

One precaution is taking antibiotics before your dental hygiene appointment. Until 2007, antibiotics were routinely prescribed for many people before dental appointments. However, antibiotics carry risks that exceed their benefits for most healthy people. Therefore, this practice has been discontinued. Instead, antibiotics are only recommended for those at risk of contracting Infectious Endocarditis.

Infectious Endocarditis is a disease of the heart commonly caused by the same bacteria that live in your mouth. If these bacteria get into your blood stream (bacteremia), they can lodge in your heart causing Infectious Endocarditis, a potentially fatal heart disease.

Bacteremia can happen during a dental visit, but most cases of Infectious Endocarditis caused by mouth bacteria result from poor oral hygiene. Your mouth harbours millions of bacteria. If your gums are red, swollen and sore it means some of these bacteria have already infected them, and when you chew food, or brush and floss your teeth you are more likely to cause bleeding which allows mouth bacteria to enter your blood stream. Once in your blood stream, these bacteria could then infect your heart.

Preventative antibiotics are prescribed for high risk patients undergoing “invasive” dental hygiene procedures (any work done below the gum line). Invasive procedures include:

  • Scaling
  • Periodontal probing (poking around the gums)
  • Teeth cleaning

You are at a higher risk of developing Infectious Endocarditis from these invasive dental hygiene practices if you have one of the following preconditions:

  • Damaged heart valves
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Artificial heart valves
  • A history of Infectious Endocarditis
  • A history of intravenous illegal drug use

Please speak to your doctor, dentist and dental hygienist if you suspect you or a family member may be at high risk. In the meantime, do your best to have a healthy mouth and heart by:

  • Flossing and brushing your teeth daily
  • Having your teeth cleaned regularly by a registered dental hygienist
  • Seeing a dentist yearly

For more information about Infectious Endocarditis, its symptoms, treatments and outcomes go to: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endocarditis