Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. While several risk factors cause heart disease, oral health is one of the prime factors. Clinical studies have revealed a direct link between oral infections and heart disease. Most commonly, cavities and periodontal diseases like gingivitis and chronic inflammation of the gums contribute to the destruction of dental tissues. (1)
Usually, tooth infection or gum bleeding in the mouth allows the oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. In most cases, oral diseases primarily affect the heart and cause endocarditis – an inflammation of heart valves.
Therefore, it is crucial to inform your dentist about your health condition before undergoing any dental procedure. Routine dental procedures like tooth cleaning can cause bleeding through the gums, which open the portal for bacterial entry. For a patient with heart disease, antibiotic coverage before such procedures is recommended. (2)
Moreover, informing the dentist about your heart condition will prepare him to stay alert and be ready to tackle any emergency. For example, the dentist will ensure that the medical emergency kit is equipped with sufficient amounts of oxygen and nitroglycerin.
The dentist may also require a recent blood work report of the patient. Additionally, he may communicate with the physician to get a clear picture of your health condition. Such precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of the patient and avoid any emergencies. (3)
Generally, patients with recent heart attacks are advised to wait for six months before undergoing any dental treatment. Patients with stable angina should get approval from their physician to get dental treatment. Patients with unstable angina are usually not advised to undergo any dental procedure. The dental office should have cardiac monitoring capabilities for such patients.
- Suggested read: Oral Health and Heart Disease – Is There a Link?
Information essential to a dental professional
The American Dental Association has published guidelines for the dentists to help ad protect the patients who are at the risk of developing bacterial heart disease. (4) These guidelines are as follows –
- Premedication with antibiotics before the treatment
- Dental treatments like professional tooth cleaning, extractions, abscess drainage, and other invasive oral surgeries require a complete medical history check and antibiotic coverage.
The precautions taken by the dentist may vary according to the patient’s medical condition and type of dental treatment. It is, therefore, essential to tell your dentist about your health status in detail, especially if you have heart disease. These may include –
- Previous history of heart surgery within the past six months
- History of vascular surgery within the past six months
- Presence of a pacemaker
- History of rheumatic fever
- History of a heart murmur
- Previous incidence of bacterial endocarditis
- Presence of a systemic pulmonary shunt
- The occurrence of congenital heart disease
- Acquired valvular dysfunction
- Prior diagnosis of any other heart ailments
While documenting the medical history, your dentist may want to consult your physician or cardiologist to discuss the treatment plan and medications suitable for you. It is essential to get consent from your physician for any antibiotics prescribed before the dental procedure.
To avoid any dangerous complications, follow the instructions carefully for the dosage and frequency of antibiotic course and dispose of any outdated prescriptions. It is essential to understand the importance of maintaining your oral health, as it may affect your present heart condition.