Using Preventive Antibiotics Before a Dental Visit

by Jason 2/20/2014 8:00 AM

Before certain dental procedures, preventive antibiotics, otherwise known as antibiotic prophylaxis, may be administered to people with specific heart conditions, such as a heart transplant, heart murmurs or artificial valves. Antibiotic prophylaxis may also be recommended for patients who have had certain orthopedic implants.

Preventive antibiotics are prescribed only if the dental procedure poses a higher risk of these patients contracting infective endocarditis, which is the inflammation of the inner tissues of the heart (such as the valves and the lining of the heart).

How does antibiotic prophylaxis benefit these people?

Oral bacteria, whether from the food you eat or from infections on account of oral procedures, can find their way through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, especially the heart. A healthy person’s immune system is able to fight these bacteria and prevent them from causing any harm.

However, individuals with certain heart conditions and weaker immune systems have a higher risk of contracting infective endocarditis.  

Taking antibiotics before an oral procedure may prevent the harmful bacteria from being released into the blood stream and wreaking havoc on unhealthy and weak organs.

Is antibiotic prophylaxis a safe way to prevent infective endocarditis?

There’s controversy as to whether preventive antibiotics are a safe solution for preventing infective endocarditis. Studies reveal that there are benefits for certain high-risk patients; however, other evidence does not advocate the use of preventive antibiotics for healthy individuals, as negative and harmful side effects far outweigh the benefits. The harmful side effects include a likelihood of developing negative reactions to the antibiotic administered, which could also lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

If you are a high-risk patient, speak with both your dentist and your cardiologist about any upcoming procedures to see if preventive antibiotics are a good choice for you. 

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