Dental health and endocarditis prevention
Bacteria in the mouth may trigger a rare, life-threatening heart infection called endocarditis.
Bacteria in tooth plaque can spread causing gum disease. The gums become inflamed, red and swollen, and often bleed during tooth brushing, flossing or certain dental procedures involving the manipulation of the gums.
When gums bleed, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and can infect other parts of the body. In the case of endocarditis, this affects the inner lining of the heart and the surfaces of the heart valves. The bacteria stick to these surfaces and create growths or pockets of bacteria. These growths, called vegetations, may then prevent the valves from functioning properly, making the heart less efficient and in some cases leading to heart failure.
Is there anything else I can do to reduce my risk of infective endocarditis?
- Tell your dentist if your health has changed since your last visit. Always let your dentist know if you have had heart or blood vessel (vascular) surgery within the past six months. Also tell them if you have been diagnosed with other heart conditions.
- Make sure your dentist has a complete list of the names and dosages of your medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
- Make sure your dentist has the names and phone numbers of all of your doctors. Your dentist may want to consult with your GP or specialist about your dental care plan and medication choices.
- Practise good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day; floss at least once a day. Good oral and dental health is very important for patients at risk of endocarditis.
What are the symptoms of endocarditis?
Possible symptoms of endocarditis include:
- Unexplained raised temperature
- Night chills
- Weakness, muscle pain or joint pain
- Sluggishness (lethargy) or malaise (generally feeling ill)
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the feet or lower legs.