In years past, patients with specific medical conditions were advised to take antibiotics before having dental work done. Those guidelines have changed. Now, in fact, taking antibiotics may do more harm than good.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “Only people who are at the greatest risk of bad outcomes from infective endocarditis (IE) [an infection of the heart’s lining or valves] should receive short-term preventive antibiotics before routine dental procedures.”
This reduces the need for preventive antibiotics among those who previously took them for the following conditions:
• Rheumatic heart disease
• Mitral valve prolapse
• Bicuspid valve disease
• Calcified aortic stenosis
• Congenital heart conditions including a ventricular or atrial septal defect or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
Why Preventive Antibiotics Might Be Unhealthy
In addition to potential adverse reactions to antibiotics including upset stomach, allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock, overuse of antibiotics can create drug-resistant bacteria, thus rendering the drug useless when it is really needed.
Studies also showed that patients are at no more risk from bacteria during a dental procedure as they are during normal, everyday activities. Bacteria harbored in the mouth can enter the bloodstream (bacteremia) during brushing or flossing. Luckily, for most people, their healthy immune system prevents harm from these bacteria.
Who Should Still Take Preventive Antibiotics?
Disuse of antibiotics is not recommended for everyone. There are still people for which antibiotic prophylaxis, or treatment, is necessary, including those who have:
• A history of infective endocarditis
• A cardiac transplant
• Artificial heart valves
• Specific congenital conditions present from birth
• Repair of a heart defect
• Heart repairs using a prosthetic material or device within the first six months after repair
Patients undergoing joint replacement surgery were also told to take antibiotics before a dental procedure. But these recommendations have also been relaxed. Now, medical professionals assess patients on a case-by-case basis. Those with a potentially compromised immune system from diabetes, cancer, chemotherapy, chronic steroid use, or rheumatoid arthritis may also be recommended for preventive care.
One of the best methods of prevention is good oral hygiene that includes twice-a-day brushing, daily flossing, and professional cleaning every six months. This can help reduce the amount of plaque and bacteria that can build up around gums and teeth.
Trust EverSmile Dentistry
If you have a question on whether you should take preventive antibiotics, please give us a call. We are glad to review your medical history and make our professional recommendations.
And when you need a trusted family dentist, please consider making EverSmile Dentistry your dental home. We are located in Sterling to serve patients of all ages living throughout Northern Virginia.