Many persons with heart disease do not realize there is a correlation between dentistry and their heart condition.
"It's important for heart patients to let their dentists know what type of heart problems they have so we can determine whether antibiotics are needed to protect the patient," says Hugo Bertagni, D.D.S., a general dentist who practices in Palatine.
"Not all people who have heart conditions require antibiotics but anyone with a damaged or surgically replaced heart valve should receive such treatment about an hour before dental work," he says.
People who have had rheumatic heart disease and those with congenital heart defects, vascular abnormalities, or mitral valve prolapse also may need to take antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to prevent endocarditis, a rare but potentially fatal infection of the heart valves and tissue. During dental procedures, bacteria enter the bloodstream through bleeding gums.
"Normally they are killed off by the immune system," says Dr. Bertagni. "However, certain strains can lodge onto damaged or artificial heart valves and multiply. Once this happens, the body generally can't defend itself against infection."
Another way to reduce potentially dangerous bacteria is to use an antiseptic mouthwash daily.
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