To help prevent endocarditis, make sure to practice good hygiene:
- Pay special attention to your dental health — brush and floss your teeth and gums often, and have regular dental checkups.
- Avoid procedures that may lead to skin infections, such as body piercings or tattoos.
- Seek prompt medical attention if you develop any type of skin infection or open cuts or sores that don't heal properly.
Certain dental and medical procedures may allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Antibiotics taken before these procedures can help destroy or control the harmful bacteria that may lead to endocarditis.
Because people with the following heart conditions are at risk of more-serious outcomes from endocarditis, they may need to take preventive antibiotics before certain medical or dental procedures to prevent endocarditis:
- Artificial (prosthetic) heart valve
- Previous endocarditis infection
- Certain types of congenital heart defects
- Heart transplant complicated by heart valve problems
Antibiotics are recommended before only the following procedures:
- Certain dental procedures (those that cut your gum tissue or part of the teeth)
- Procedures involving the respiratory tract, infected skin or tissue that connects muscle to bone
Antibiotics are no longer recommended before all dental procedures or for procedures of the urinary tract or gastrointestinal system.
If you've had to take preventive antibiotics in the past before your dental exams, you may be concerned about these changes. In the past, you were likely told to get antibiotics because of a concern that common dental procedures increased your risk of endocarditis. But as doctors have learned more about endocarditis prevention, they've realized that endocarditis is much more likely to occur from exposure to random germs than from a standard dental exam or surgery.
This doesn't mean it's not important to take good care of your teeth through brushing and flossing. There is some concern that infections in your mouth from poor oral hygiene might increase the risk of germs entering your bloodstream. In addition to brushing and flossing, regular dental exams are an important part of maintaining good oral health.
June 14, 2014
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed April 11, 2014.
- Endocarditis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/endo/. Accessed April 11, 2014.
- Fuster V, ed., et al. Hurst's The Heart. 13th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=5. Accessed April 11, 2014.
- Sexton DJ, et al. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of infective endocarditis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 11, 2014.