24 Aug

New study suggests dentists should give antibiotics to patients at risk of cardiac infection

A new study suggests that dentists should prescribe antibiotics for patients who have an elevated risk of developing endocarditis, a cardiac infection, which can be life-threatening. 

Researchers believe that current NICE guidelines should be reviewed to encourage dentists to give antibiotics to patients who have a high risk of developing endocarditis. The existing guidelines advise against routine prescription of antibiotics for invasive procedures, even in cases where patients are at increased risk of infective endocarditis.

The study shows that in 30%-40% of cases of infective endocarditis, bacteria from the mouth could be to blame. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream via the mouth during dental treatment, putting patients who are undergoing invasive treatment at risk. Infective endocarditis is rare but it can be fatal. It causes infection within the inner lining of the valves and heart chambers, known as the endocardium. Symptoms include chills, a fever, aching muscles and joints and headaches. If the infection is left untreated, it can cause heart failure and stroke. 

The research team believes that prescribing antibiotics in patients who have a higher risk of developing infective endocarditis could prevent cases and reduce the risk of other cardiac complications, including heart failure and stroke, in patients deemed high-risk. 

Prof Martin Thornhill, from the University of Sheffield, led the study. He explained that the findings of the study suggest that NICE should review current guidelines related to the use of antibiotics for patients with a high risk of developing infective endocarditis. The study is the largest project to show “a significant association between invasive dental procedures and infective endocarditis, particularly for extraction and surgical procedures.”

In other countries, including the US and some European nations, guidelines recommend routine antibiotics for high-risk patients undergoing invasive dental treatment.