June 24, 2018
Antibiotics Before the Dentist
Ask the Experts

Antibiotics Before the Dentist

by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: Who should take antibiotics before going to the dentist?

A: Far fewer people than were advised to do so in the past should take antibiotics before going to the dentist. The idea of taking antibiot­ics before dental procedures is to prevent bacterial endocarditis, a life-threatening heart infection. But very few people develop endocarditis after dental work, and antibiot­ics would prevent only a tiny fraction of cases.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the overall risks from taking antibiotics before dental procedures as a preventive (these include allergic reactions and the development of drug-resistant bacteria) out­weigh the small benefits.

However, the AHA (along with the Ameri­can Dental Association) still recommends prophylactic antibiotics for people at highest risk for endocarditis—those with an artificial heart valve, valve problems after a heart transplant, previous endocarditis, or specific congenital heart conditions. People with mitral valve pro­lapse are not considered at high risk.

Routine use of antibiotics for dental patients who have had a total joint replacement is no longer recommended.

Also see Fluoride Treatments: Do or Don't?