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Authors: John Morgan, Bonnie F. Zimble

Congenital Heart Defects:

Causes and Treatment, with Dental Considerations

Special Care in Dentistry
John Morgan, DDS
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, 2008

 Study Questions:     

  1. What are five major causes of congenital heart defects?

  2. Describe the risks and considerations when providing dental care to persons with congenital heart defects.

What are some causes of congenital heart defects? 

  • Viruses: for example, rubella (German measles), during pregnancy

  • Medications: some types of prescription and over the counter medications

  • Alcohol (or street drugs): consumed during pregnancy        

  • Chronic illness: in mother

  • Genetics: important to note that one-third of children with Down Syndrome have congenital heart defects

Treatment of congenital heart defects and dental considerations

  • Surgical repairs often allow patients with heart defects to live normal or near-normal lives.

  • Children and adults with certain defects, even after surgical repair, remain at increased risk of infection involving the heart and its valves.

  • Antibiotics are often indicated prior to dental treatment to reduce risk of bacterial endocarditis. (See Dajani AS, et al. Prevention of bacterial endocarditis. Recommendations by the American Heart Association. Circulation. 1997 Jul 1;96(1):358-66 for the American Heart Asoociation's recommendations.)

  • Consultation with the patient’s physician is recommended.