Antibiotic Prophylaxis Against Infective Endocarditis

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Indian Health Service Oral Health Program Guide

Antibiotic Prophylaxis Against Infective Endocarditis

It has long been recommended that patients with certain heart conditions take antibiotics before dental treatment to prevent Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis, now known as infective endocarditis (IE). However, in April 2007, in the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association (AHA) published new guidelines recommending that most patients no longer need prophylactic antibiotics as a preventive measure before dental treatment.

The guidelines have been endorsed by the American Dental Association (ADA), the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

Current scientific evidence that shows the risks of taking prophylactic antibiotics may outweigh the benefits for most patients. The risks include:

There is also no compelling scientific evidence that taking prophylactic antibiotics prevents IE in patients who are at risk of developing a heart infection. Daily activities such as brushing and flossing routinely expose these patients to bacteremias. Published studies suggest that IE is more likely to occur as a result of these everyday activities than from a dental procedure.

In the new guidelines, the following groups of patients no longer need antibiotic prophylaxis:

  • Ventricular septal defect

  • Atrial septal defect

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Only patients at the greatest risk of a bad outcome if they were to develop IE after a dental procedure are covered by the new recommendations, and for these patients, prophylaxis is recommended for all procedures that involve manipulation of the gingiva (including cleaning) or the periapical region of the teeth, or that involve the perforation of the oral mucosa (except anesthetic injections through non-infected tissue).

Any questions about these guidelines may be addressed by contacting the ADA Division of Science via e-mail ( or by calling 312-440-2878. ADA members may use the Association’s toll-free number (1-800-621-8099) and ask for extension 2878.

The most current guidelines for prophylaxis against IE can be found by clicking on the following link:

The dental procedures for which IE prophylaxis is recommended can be found at the following site:

The cardiac conditions covered by these recommendations can be found at:

The currently recommended antibiotic regimens for IE prophylaxis can be found at:

The ADA has also prepared a legal perspective on antibiotic prophylaxis to accompany the guidelines. Everyone is encouraged to read this document along with the new guidelines. It can be found at:

It is recommended that every dental clinic download a copy of the recommendations and the legal sidebar and keep them in a readily accessible area of the clinic for quick reference.

Infective Endocarditis, Signs and Symptoms

IE is a rare condition that presents with flu-like symptoms within two days to two weeks, rarely within four weeks, following dental procedures. The following symptoms can be signs of bacterial endocarditis even if the patient has been properly prophylaxed. Any patient who presents with these symptoms should be immediately referred for medical care.


Chapter 5-J-

Delivery of Dental Services 2007

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