Patients with Heart Conditions: Why Your Dentist Needs to Know

If you have heart disease, a heart condition even as minor as a murmur, or have recently had heart surgery, it’s important to let your dentist know about your condition before your visit. Taking this extra precaution can be vitally important to safeguarding your health.

Why It’s Important

Even routine dental procedures, such as cleaning, can cause bleeding in the mouth, which then allows oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and possibly travel to the heart. For a patient with a heart condition this bacteria poses the potentially dangerous risk of endocarditis, or inflammation of the heart valves or tissue. Because of this, for patients with cardiac issues, antibiotics are recommended prior to any dental visit, even routine cleanings.
In general, patients who have suffered a heart attack should wait six months before undergoing any type of dental treatment, and must communicate any medications they are taking, especially any anticoagulants, or blood-thinning drugs. Patients with stable angina (regular chest pain) should consult with their doctors, but those with unstable (irregularly occurring) angina are usually advised not to undergo non-essential dental procedures. Emergency dental care should be performed either in a hospital setting or an office with cardiac monitoring capabilities.
Other things to keep in mind to protect your heart health before visiting the dentist include:
  • Learn what your dentist can do in the case of medical emergency, and find out if there is oxygen and nitroglycerin available if needed.
  • Be sure your dentist has your complete medical history, including any relevant bloodwork, and names and contact information for other healthcare providers with whom they may need to consult.
Always be sure to let your dentist know if you have any health concerns before an appointment, and particularly if you might have a heart condition. Your continued good health depends on it!

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