What Is Endocarditis?
There are many areas of overall health affected by oral health, and the connection between endocarditis and healthy gums and teeth is only one specific example.
Endocarditis is a heart disease in which the inner lining of the heart becomes infected by bacteria originating from other parts of your body. Many times, the pathogens begin in the mouth, where infections from periodontal disease or other oral health problems exist. They then spread through the bloodstream to the heart.
Although endocarditis is a fairly rare condition, it is also a very serious, often life threatening one. And although there are other risk factors, one of the major ones is poor oral health.
Symptoms of endocarditis include chills, fevers, tiredness, weakness, and muscle/joint pain. But you would need to see a doctor for an exam to diagnose it since the symptoms are too general to tell by symptom-reading alone.
Antibiotics & Endocarditis
When you have heart troubles already, it is recommended by the American Heart Association that your periodontist use an antibiotic on you if you have any major dental surgery to reduce the risk of endocarditis. This especially applies to the treatment of gum disease.
Because cutting the gums or disturbing the infected area of your mouth could cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream more rapidly, antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria. The risk is relatively small, and if you neglect treatment entirely, you could ultimately be at an even greater risk – but the use of antibiotics about an hour before a dental operation secures the highest level of dental safety.
Those who should especially be keen to ask their periodontist if they need an antibiotic include:
- Those who have had endocarditis in the past.
- Those with artificial heart valves.
- Anyone with cardiac valve disease.
- Anyone who has had a heart transplant.
- People born with a congenital heart disease.
Any dental procedure where the periodontal tissue surrounding the bone/teeth or the tip of a tooth root is being worked on, put people with present or past heart conditions at high enough risk to merit use of an appropriate antibiotic (in moderate dosage).
However, those not at a high risk of endocarditis or those undergoing treatment for non-infectious oral health problems do not necessarily need an antibiotic before dental surgery. In some cases, antibiotics might be prescribed following dental surgery, however, even in cases not related to endocarditis risk.
Protecting Your Dental Hygiene
Besides corrective dental procedures and routine dental check ups, you can also lower your risk of endocarditis though practicing good oral hygiene at home from day to day.
Brushing, flossing, and using an antiseptic mouth rinse at least twice a day – in the morning after breakfast and in the evening just before bed, will work wonders in protecting your oral health over the years.
Additionally, reducing consumption of high-sugar foods, eating more vitamin-rich alternatives, and drinking plenty of water will all have a big impact.
To learn more about how to optimize your dental health, contact periodontist Dr. Raymond A. Kenzik today!