If you have certain health conditions, your medical doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for you to take prior to a dental visit. The reason why is a story that dates back to the mid-20th Century.
In the early part of the last century, a theory became popular that bacteria in the mouth could migrate to other parts of the body and cause systemic illness or disease. During the 1930s and 1940s evidence arose that indicated a connection between dental procedures that caused bleeding and two serious health conditions: bacteremia (the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream) and infective endocartitis. The latter is the inflammation of inner tissues of the heart (including the valves) caused by infectious agents, most notably bacteria. It became common then to prescribe antibiotics to patients susceptible to these conditions as a preventive measure. Later, patients with prosthetic joints or poor immune systems were added for this kind of treatment.
For many years, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended pre-visit antibiotic treatment for a wide array of heart patients. After several years of research that indicated the treatment wasn't necessary for most people and might even be detrimental, they updated their guidelines in 2007 and reduced their recommendation list to just a few conditions. They now recommend the antibiotic treatment for patients with artificial heart valves, a history of infective endocartitis, heart transplant recipients with valve problems, and certain congenital (inherited) heart conditions.
If you have a condition that calls for a pre-visit antibiotic treatment, all the providers involved with your care will need to communicate. Your medical doctor will most likely prescribe two grams of amoxicillin (or a similar antibiotic if you are allergic to amoxicillin) that you would take an hour before the dental procedure. We in turn would communicate with your medical doctor concerning the dental procedures you're scheduled to undergo (including regular cleanings), in case your doctor would like to make adjustments in your medication.
Your health and well-being is of utmost importance to all your healthcare providers, medical and dental. Working together, we can ensure the dental procedures you need for oral health won't have an adverse impact your general health.
If you would like more information on antibiotic treatment before a dental visit, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Antibiotics for Dental Visits.”