Research changes dental guidelines

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Research conducted at the University of Sheffield has brought important changes to national dentistry guidelines.

Pressure from academics at the city university, and national charity Heart Research UK, has helped bring about a change in advice to dentists about giving antibiotics to heart patients undergoing dental treatment.

The victory comes after research, funded by the charity, showed that there had been an increase in cases of the life-threatening heart condition, infective endocarditis, since national health body NICE recommended in 2008 that at-risk heart patients no longer receive antibiotic cover during dental treatment.

Following research, conducted by Professor Martin Thornhill, of the University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry, NICE initially decided not to change its recommendation, but following pressure from the charity, Professor Thornhill and a host of supporters including a local MP, NICE has had a change of heart and altered the guideline.

That recommendation now says that dentists should not ‘routinely’ give antibiotics to patients at risk of infective endocarditis during dental procedures, allowing flexibility for dentists and cardiologists to recommend antibiotic cover when it is in the best interests of the patient.

Professor Thornhill said: “This change is most welcome. It lifts the ban on giving antibiotic prophylaxis to protect patients at risk of endocarditis and permits dentists and cardiologists to act in the best interests of patients at greatest risk of this devastating disease by providing them with the protection that is standard care in the rest of the world.”

Heart Research UK national director, Barbara Harpham said: “This is great news for patients and the money for this research was very well spent for our charity. It has taken nearly two years, but now patients at risk have a choice and, after talking to their dentist, can make an informed decision about their treatment.”