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Special Care at the Dental Office for Heart-Disease Patients

Aug 17, 2007
Close to 60 million Americans suffer from some form of heart disease, and according to the American Heart Association (AHA), it has been the leading cause of death since 1919. You probably know someone who has cardiovascular disease - one in five Americans have some form of the disease, and someone dies every 33 seconds from heart disease.

After understanding how many people are affected by heart disease it is not surprising that 62 percent of dentists see signs of heart problems in their patients. Heart disease patients need special treatment at the dental office because they may react differently to dental treatment. Consequently, the American Dental Association and the AHA have written guidelines for dental professionals when treating heart disease patients.

The AHA recommends heart disease sufferers do these three things:

Establish and maintain a healthy mouth by practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dental office regularly.

Ensure your dental professionals know you have a heart condition.

Follow the instruction of your doctor or dental professional when they prescribe antibiotics and other medicine.

The patients (including children) who are most at risk of developing infective endocarditis include those who have:

A previous history of endocarditis
Prosthetic heart valves
Congenital and acquired heart defects
Surgically constructed pulmonary shunts
Valvular and rheumatic heart disease
Mitral valve prolapse
Used intravenous drugs

Antibiotics may be required prior to treatment when gum bleeding is a possibility. Examples of these treatments include:

Tooth cleaning
Procedures on hard and soft tissues
Periodontal (gum) surgery

There is a Vicious circle of Heart and Periodontal Disease. The problems with the heart can affect conditions in the mouth. And vice versa,if your gums become diseased, there can be adverse reactions to the heart. So, it is wise to do everything you can to keep your teeth and gums plaque free, especially if you have a heart condition.

There are several side effects of heart disease medication. While anti-coagulants and high blood pressure medications can ease the symptoms of coronary artery disease or hypertension, some side effects could impact dental health.

According to The American Academy of Periodontology, some of these medications have been known to cause conditions such as dry mouth, increased plaque and enlarged gum tissue. The side effects may seem insignificant, but they could have serious implications if left untreated.

Infective endocarditis is a rare, but a potentially life-threatening disease that can occur when bacteria from plaque is released in to the bloodstream. This can happen during simple acts like brushing your teeth and flossing. If your gums bleed, bacteria called streptococcus sanguis can enter the bloodstream and stick to damaged heart tissues or values, resulting in fever, anemia and even death.

Brush twice a day!Because of the severity of infective endocarditis, it is vital that every precaution is taken. We strongly advise anyone who is at risk from developing this condition keep their mouth as plaque free as possible. Protect your heart by thoroughly brushing your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, especially after meals, and flossing daily.

Denture wearers should pay particular attention to the fit of their dentures. If sore spots develop, call your dentist for an appointment without delay. If these spots become infected, the risk of infective endocarditis increases.

When patients with heart disease make a dental appointment, especially for procedures that may cause gums to bleed, your dentist will evaluate their medical history to see if there is a risk for infective endocarditis. He must also know whether there are any drug allergies or if any medication is being taken. If there is a concern, your dentist may prescribe the appropriate antibiotic and provide instructions for frequency and dosage.

Performing dentistry on patients with heart disease should be no problem, providing your dentist have all the relevant information regarding their condition. Please tell your dentist at the beginning of your dental visit if you have been diagnosed with, or suspect you may have a heart-related condition. Your dentist may work with your physician to ensure you receive the optimum care. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your dental office.
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