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Good Oral Hygiene May Help Reduce Risk of Heart Infection

Infective endocarditis is an infection of the inner surface of the heart, usually the valves, caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream.  Viridans group streptococcal infective endocarditis (VGS IE) is caused by bacteria that collect in plaque on the tooth surface and then enter the bloodstream. According to a recent study, good oral hygiene and regular dental care are key to reducing the risk of VGS IE.

In 2007, the American Heart Association released guidelines recommending that four categories of heart patients should receive preventive antibiotics before certain dental procedures to reduce the risk of VGS IE. For their study, a group of experts in prevention and treatment of infective endocarditis reviewed data from 2007 to the present to determine if the guidelines were being followed, if cases of VGS IE were increasing or decreasing, and if adjustments to the guidelines were needed.

They found that there is good general awareness of the 2007 guidelines but variable compliance. They also found that there have been no increases in incidences of VGS IE or death due to VGS IE since the 2007 guidelines were released.

The experts noted that VGS IE is much more likely to develop from bacteria being released into the bloodstream from toothbrushing in people with poor oral hygiene and gingival disease. They stressed that maintaining good oral health is vital to helping reduce the risk of VSG IE.

The study was conducted by researchers from the American Heart Association, the American Dental Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It was published online ahead of print on April 15, 2021 in the journal Circulation.

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