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Dental Cleaning and Heart Health

Published: April 17, 2009

Dear Dr. SerVaas,
I have mitral valve prolapse, and my dentist said it’s no longer necessary to take an antibiotic before I have my teeth cleaned. But I read that Bobby Darin died at 37 after having his teeth cleaned. Should I insist on taking an antibiotic before teeth cleaning?

Post cardiology consultant Dr. Douglas Zipes replies:
“Antibiotic prophylaxis for dental procedures is now recommended only for high-risk patients, such as those with prosthetic (artificial) heart valves or some congenital heart defects. In general, simple mitral valve prolapse would not warrant such treatment. Despite widespread use for 50 years, there is no scientific evidence that antibiotics prevent infective endocarditis (heart infections, usually on a heart valve) from dental work. Bobby Darin apparently contracted endocarditis after a dental procedure and reportedly did not take his antibiotics. But he had two artificial heart valves, so he would have been one of the high-risk candidates for whom antibiotics are recommended.”

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