Infective Endocarditis and How Oral Hygiene Protects Us
Cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss are primary concerns when treating oral health, but did you know that bacteria in our mouth can contribute to diseases? Infective endocarditis is a disease that affects the heart, and because it’s often unheard of in conversations about oral health, we’re here to go over what causes it and how it can be treated.
What is Infective Endocarditis?
Infective endocarditis, also known as bacterial endocarditis, is an infection that causes bacteria to enter the bloodstream and enter the heart lining, heart valves, or blood vessels. It’s an uncommon condition, but people with heart conditions or a high risk of heart disease are often at greater risk for developing it.
Infective endocarditis often occurs within days of bacteria being introduced into the bloodstream. The infection can result from many sources, but most often comes from poor dental hygiene—minor injuries to the mouth lining, dental procedures, implants, cardiovascular devices, and other issues.
Bacteria that grow on the valves is a life-threatening infection. When the heart valves are not directly supplied with blood, the body’s immune system response cannot reach the valves. Bacteria growing along the valves, especially for people with heart problems, can become difficult to fight the infection. At this point, it can become chronic and life-threatening within a few months of developing and requires immediate medical attention. However, it can still present life-harming risks when it develops suddenly, so make sure to speak with your cardiologist to learn about its symptoms.
What Do Dentists Do To Prevent Infective Endocarditis?
Infective endocarditis is often associated with chronic heart conditions such as congenital heart defects, patients with previous heart surgeries, and cardiovascular disease. Because of their compromised immune system, oral surgeons and dentists must adjust their prevention treatments and guidelines to help protect patients from these diseases. This includes making adjustments to dental procedures, such as:
- Prescribing Antibiotics: Prescribing antibiotics, specifically antibiotic prophylaxis, for people with heart valve diseases before dental procedures can help reduce the risk of infective endocarditis. However, it is not always recommended for certain congenital heart diseases.
- Require AHA Wallet Card For Treatments: The American Heart Association provides cards for patients to carry to their healthcare providers, helping better inform dentists about their recommended dosages for antibiotics and other prescriptions.
- Encouraging Good Oral Hygiene: Good oral hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent this condition. Patients having good hygiene before treatments can protect themselves during necessary procedures such as cleanings and exams.
By speaking with your cardiologists and dental care providers, you can effectively inform your team about your heart conditions, medications, and treatment options to help reduce the risk of infective endocarditis. For more information about what symptoms to look out for, what medications you can take, and how your cardio disease may impact your dental care, make sure to speak with your primary dentist to learn more.