Dental health and endocarditis

What is endocarditis?

Endocarditis is a rare but serious and potentially life-threatening condition. It is usually caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and infect the lining of the heart or, more commonly, the heart valves.

The following heart conditions can put you at risk of developing endocarditis:

  • Some congenital heart conditions
  • Heart transplant
  • Previous endocarditis
  • Heart valve replacement
  • Material in your heart (such as a tissue graft)

If you have any concerns, please discuss them with your cardiologist or specialist nurse.

You can find further information about endocarditis and how to prevent it on the BHF website.


Symptoms of endocarditis may include the following:

  • Fever, chills, temperature,
  • Sweating, particularly night sweats
  • Muscular aches and pains or weakness
  • Headache
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss

What to do if you think you have endocarditis?

See your GP as soon as possible – explain that you are at risk of endocarditis and describe your symptoms. A blood test can be performed to help confirm the diagnosis. It is important that the blood tests are performed before antibiotics are commenced.

If endocarditis is suspected, you will need to be referred to the hospital cardiology team for immediate treatment.

Treatment may include:

  • Hospital admission
  • Intravenous (into a vein) antibiotics for approximately six weeks
  • Surgery, if the heart is damaged by the infection

Causes and prevention

It is not possible to prevent all bacteria from getting into the bloodstream but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of getting endocarditis:

Good oral hygiene is extremely important as bacteria on the teeth can enter the bloodstream through the gums and settle in the heart.

  • Visit the dentist regularly.
  • Brush your teeth well at least twice a day
  • Avoid body piercing and tattoos
  • Do not inject recreational drugs.

It is very important that you inform your GP, cardiologist, surgeon, or dentist if you have any symptoms that concern you. Tell them that you may be at risk of endocarditis before any procedure or operation as you may require antibiotics to protect you.

Looking after your oral health

NHS Dental Care

Regular dental check-ups are important for all children and adults with CHD. You can find information and advice about looking after your dental health here.

You can find NHS dentist in your area by using the NHS dentist search page.

If you are not able to find an NHS dentist in your local area or are struggling to travel to a dentist for treatment due to a disability please look at the information on the NHS Website and contact the NHS England advice line for help:

NHS England’s Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233

Your Cardiac Specialist Nurse team can provide you with a letter confirming the importance of regular dental care if this is requested by the Contact Centre. 

If you have a dental emergency and are not registered with an NHS dentist, you can contact NHS 111 who can arrange emergency dental treatment for you. 

Patients who are waiting for cardiac surgery may have been asked by their surgeon to complete an oral health assessment with a dentist before having their operation. You can download a copy of the form to take to your dentist below:

Oral Health Assessment Form

Further Advice and Support

Contact details

Adult Patients:

For more information, advice and support, please contact your ACHD specialist nurse team:

University Hospital Southampton:

 Tel: 023 8077 7222 bleep 1481

Advice line: 023 8120 4739

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

 Tel: Advice line: 01865 740412


Monday to Friday 8am until 4pm

Paediatric Patients:

For more information, advice and support, please contact your paediatric cardiac specialist nurse team:

University  Hospital Southampton:

Advice line: 023 81204659 (This is an answerphone service – a member of the team will call you back)

Monday – Friday 8am-5pm

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

 Tel: 01865 234 985 or 0300 304 7777 Bleep 4170

Monday to Friday 8am until 5pm