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Dental Alerts for Heart Patients and Smokers

Test your knowledge of these facts about sound dental care.


1. Everyone with a heart condition should take an antibiotic before dental treatment. True or False?

2. Smoking increases your risk for, and the progress of, gum disease. True or False?


1. False. The American Heart Association and American Dental Association have concluded that most heart patients do not need to take antibiotics before dental treatments. This new guideline affects those with rheumatic heart disease, mitral valve prolapse, bicuspid valve disease, calcified aortic stenosis, and some congenital heart conditions.1 In the past, antibiotics were prescribed to guard against infective endocarditis, which is an infection of the inner lining or valves of the heart.2

Researchers concluded the risks of antibiotics outweighed the benefits for most patients. Antibiotics are still recommended before dental treatment, however, for patients with a history of infective endocarditis, artificial heart valves, a transplanted heart with a valve problem, or certain serious congenital heart conditions.1 Ask your dentist, family doctor, or cardiologist what’s best for you.

2. True. Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors in development and worsening of periodontal (gum) disease. The American Academy of Periodontology says smoking increases your risk for several problems related to gum disease, including calculus (plaque that hardens on teeth and can be removed only by a professional cleaning), deep pockets between your teeth and gums, and loss of the bone and tissue that support your teeth. Using tobacco can also interfere with the healing process.3

“Antibiotics and Your Heart.” American Dental Association, June 2007. 2013.

“Infective Endocarditis.” American Heart Association, April 12, 2013. 2013.

Periodontal Status in Smokers and Never-Smokers: Clinical Findings and Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Quantification of Putative Periodontal Pathogens. Gomes,SC, et al. Journal of Periodontology: Sep 2006, Vol. 77, No. 9, Pages 1483-1490. Abstract: 2013.

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