With input from the ADA, the American Heart Association (AHA) released guidelines for the prevention of infective endocarditis in 2007,7
which were approved by the CSA as they relate to dentistry in 2008.8
In 2017, the AHA and American College of Cardiology (ACC) published a focused update9
to their 2014 guidelines on the management of valvular heart disease that reinforce the previous recommendations.
These current guidelines support infective endocarditis premedication for a relatively small subset of patients. This is based on a review of scientific evidence, which showed that the risk of adverse reactions to antibiotics generally outweigh the benefits of prophylaxis for many patients who would have been considered eligible for prophylaxis in previous versions of the guidelines. Concern about the development of drug-resistant bacteria also was a factor.
Also, the data are mixed as to whether prophylactic antibiotics taken before a dental procedure prevent infective endocarditis. The guidelines note that people who are at risk for infective endocarditis are regularly exposed to oral bacteria during basic daily activities such as brushing or flossing. The valvular disease management guidelines9
recommend that persons at risk of developing bacterial infective endocarditis (see “Patient Selection”) establish and maintain the best possible oral health to reduce potential sources of bacterial seeding. They state, “Optimal oral health is maintained through regular professional dental care and the use of appropriate dental products, such as manual, powered, and ultrasonic toothbrushes; dental floss; and other plaque-removal devices.”
The current infective endocarditis/valvular heart disease guidelines state that use of preventive antibiotics before certain dental procedures is reasonable for patients with:
aAccording to limited data, infective endocarditis appears to be more common in heart transplant recipients than in the general population; the risk of infective endocarditis is highest in the first 6 months after transplant because of endothelial disruption, high-intensity immunosuppressive therapy, frequent central venous catheter access, and frequent endomyocardial biopsies.9
bExcept for the conditions listed above, antibiotic prophylaxis is no longer recommended for any other form of congenital heart disease.
- prosthetic cardiac valves, including transcatheter-implanted prostheses and homografts;
- prosthetic material used for cardiac valve repair, such as annuloplasty rings and chords;
- a history of infective endocarditis;
- a cardiac transplanta with valve regurgitation due to a structurally abnormal valve;
- the following congenital (present from birth) heart disease:b
- unrepaired cyanotic congenital heart disease, including palliative shunts and conduits
- any repaired congenital heart defect with residual shunts or valvular regurgitation at the site of or adjacent to the site of a prosthetic patch or a prosthetic device
Prophylaxis is recommended for the patients identified in the previous section for all dental procedures that involve manipulation of gingival tissue or the periapical region of the teeth, or perforation of the oral mucosa.
Additional Considerations About Infective Endocarditis Antibiotic Prophylaxis (When Indicated)
Sometimes, patients forget to premedicate before their appointments. The recommendation is that for patients with an indication for antibiotic prophylaxis, the antibiotic be given before the procedure. This is important because it allows the antibiotic to reach adequate blood levels. However, the guidelines to prevent infective endocarditis7, 8
state, “If the dosage of antibiotic is inadvertently not administered before the procedure, the dosage may be administered up to 2 hours after the procedure.”
Another concern that dentists have expressed involves patients who require prophylaxis but are already taking antibiotics for another condition. In these cases, the guidelines for infective endocarditis7, 8
recommend that the dentist select an antibiotic from a different class than the one the patient is already taking. For example, if the patient is taking amoxicillin, the dentist should select clindamycin, azithromycin or clarithromycin for prophylaxis.
Other patient groups also may merit special consideration, which is discussed more fully in the guidelines.
In 2015, The Lancet published a study out of the United Kingdom that reported a correlation between institution of more limited antibiotic prophylaxis guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Evidence (NICE) in 2008 and an increase in cases of infective endocarditis.10
Because of the retrospective and observational nature of the study, the authors acknowledged that their “data do not establish a causal association.” At this time, the ADA recommends that dentists continue to use the AHA guidelines discussed above. Dental professionals should periodically visit the ADA website for updates on this issue.