Endocarditis is an infection involving the valves in the heart. It is always a serious infection and, if left untreated, will result in death.
Endocarditis most often occurs in people who already have a damaged heart valve, have congenital abnormalities of the heart, or have received an artificial heart valve. The abnormal valve or artificial valve can become seeded with bacteria after a seemingly minor procedure. Dentists recommend that these individuals take antibiotics before undergoing dental work to reduce the risk of infection. IV drug addicts also have a major risk for developing endocarditis due to the use of dirty needles.