My Healthy Heart BlogsBy Corie RichterFor

My Healthy Heart BlogsBy Corie RichterFor

My Healthy Heart Blogs

By Corie RichterFor several decades, doctors have recommended that certain heart disease patients take antibiotics before and after having dental work completed. However, new research indicates that this may not be necessary. Read more about the association between dental work and heart disease.

For decades heart patients have been advised to take antibiotics before and after dental extractions and surgery. Not necessary, says a new report in the journal

A group of dentists determined it is far more risky to brush your teeth than have a tooth extracted, and the danger of taking too many antibiotics outweighs any preventive benefit.

Health care professionals were concerned that patients were at greater risk of contracting endocarditis, which is an infection around the heart valves caused by several strains of bacteria residing in the mouth after dental work.

However, experts now estimate that simply brushing teeth exposes patients to 200 times more of those harmful bacteria than a dental visit.

Why the fuss? Our culture is receiving such frequent and high doses of antibiotics that bacteria are becoming resistant to treatment. More antibiotics mean more toxicity, possible organ damage, and death. Even when patients received the standard antibiotic amoxicillin, they still tested positive for the bacteria that causes endocarditis.

Not every heart patient is at risk for contracting endocarditis. Those who are at risk are patients who have:

  • Artificial heart valves.
  • Congenital heart defects.
  • Prior history of endocarditis.
  • Damaged heart valves (usually caused by rheumatic fever, infection).
  • Intravenous drug use.
  • Some hospitalized patients with IVs.

Should you stop taking antibiotics? No decision to stop taking medication of any kind should be made without the input of your clinician. There may be extenuating circumstances in your condition which would make medications necessary. This is also, as I frequently caution readers, only one study. We don’t know if their conclusion is valid in a larger sample. We have no way of knowing from this study if another antibiotic might be more effective and more widely used than amoxicillin.

Corie Richter is a nurse and physician''s assistant who started her career as a health educator. The survivor of a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and partially successful quadruple bypass surgery, she did not let her health challenges hamper her. Neither the limitations of spinal surgery nor of diabetes have deterred her from a mission of service. She now encourages others through writing and speaking engagements to master their disabilities through education and a proactive attitude.

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