New evidence suggests a further correlation between oral and heart health, according to a recent Fox News report. Recent research has found that patients who have prosthetic heart valves may be more at risk of developing serious infections when undergoing invasive dental procedures. Infective endocarditis, or infections of the heart valve or lining, was shown to be 66% more likely to develop in patients with prosthetic heart valves, but it is still unclear as to whether antibiotics may play an important role in preventing this.
“Although the risk of infective endocarditis is low it is reasonable to offer the option of antibiotic preventive strategy prior to dental procedures because it is life threatening,” said lead study author Sarah Tubiana of INSERM in Paris. “Invasive dental procedures such as tooth extraction or scaling disrupt gingival integrity and allow bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream; then, the bacteria can graft on cardiac valves and destroys valves,” she added.
Infective endocarditis, while rare, is a severe disease that kills 20% of people hospitalized for the condition and has a five-year mortality rate of 40%.
“The most important thing is that patients with valve disease are aware of endocarditis, and seek urgent medical attention if they are worried they have developed any of the symptoms,” said Dr. Tom Cahill, co-author of an accompanying editorial and a researcher at Oxford Heart Centre in the UK.
Symptoms of the condition can be similar to the flu, including fever, sweats, chills and aching muscles or joints. Some people might also experience swollen glands, headache, cough, fluid buildup on the chest or legs or breathlessness. Patients with prosthetic heart valves who have recently undergone dental treatments and are experiencing any symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.