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Good oral hygiene may prevent a heart infection caused by mouth bacteria

Experts are emphasizing the importance of sticking to good dental habits

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A new study conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) looked at the link between dental hygiene and infective endocarditis (IE) -- a heart infection linked to bacteria in the mouth. 

The researchers analyzed the efficacy of 2007 guidelines from the AHA and affirmed that good dental habits can prevent IE. The team confirmed that participants with a history of heart issues are at an increased risk of IE and associated complications, and antibiotics can be an effective way of preventing infection. 

“Scientific data since the 2007 AHA guidelines support the view that limited use of preventative antibiotics for dental procedures hasn’t increased cases of endocarditis and is an important step at combating antibiotic overuse in the population,” said researcher Dr. Walter R. Wilson.  

Reducing the risk of infection

For the study, experts from various organizations -- the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association -- analyzed the 2007 guidelines related to dental hygiene and IE. 

In these recommendations, four groups were identified to be at the highest risk of complications related to IE: people who have had heart transplants, those who have previously had IE, those with prosthetic heart valves, and those with congenital heart disease. To lower the risk of IE, many physicians and dentists have prescribed antibiotics to patients from these vulnerable populations. In this new study, experts have confirmed that these recommendations still hold up; antibiotics can help protect those with heart concerns from developing IE. 

For those with no heart issues, antibiotics typically aren’t necessary; practicing good oral hygiene can be an effective way to reduce the risk of IE. However, poor dental hygiene habits can make consumers more susceptible to infection. 

The researchers say these findings emphasize the importance of following good hygiene habits. Invasive dental procedures can make bacteria more likely to settle in the mouth, but when consumers regularly get dental check-ups and brush and floss their teeth, they can protect against potentially serious infections. 

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