Harvard Heart Letter

Protect your heart during dental work

Don't stop taking aspirin, Plavix, or any other antiplatelet before dental work without asking your cardiologist.

The physical, emotional, and psychological stresses of surgery create conditions inside arteries that sometimes lead to a heart attack or stroke. This has long been known for coronary artery bypass grafting, hip replacement, and other major operations. Now it appears that tooth extraction and other oral surgeries also temporarily — but slightly — increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers in England created a bit of a ruckus when they reported that people were 1.5 times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke within four weeks of undergoing invasive dental treatment, such as tooth extraction or planing and scaling to clean the teeth and gums, than they were at any other time during the six months after the dental procedure. Scary media headlines followed, such as "Dental work can give you a heart attack."

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