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How Does Oral Health Affect People with Kidney Disease?

Posted on 3/10/2022 by Joshua M. Ignatowicz DMD & Associates
Couple cleaning their teeth in front of a large mirror.Practicing good oral care is important for everyone, but for people who have kidney disease, it is even more crucial. For all people, tooth decay and gum disease can cause infections, many of which can be minor. For people with kidney disease, this can trigger complications that can make this a major problem.

Over the years, many studies have begun to establish connections between oral health and systemic health. What this means is that there are connections between the health of your mouth and the health of your entire body. The connection between oral heath and kidneys is all about how those with kidney disease can handle bacteria and infections. When the body has an oral infection, the natural response of the body is inflammation, which helps the body activate its’ immune system, which typically helps to rid the body of infection. However, when infections linger, it can cause chronic inflammation in the body. Dental carries (cavities) and periodontitis (gum disease) are considered chronic bacterial infections. They can result in bad breath, pain, difficulty eating, and can result in bacteria spreading to other parts of the body. Weakened immune systems, like those in people with kidney disease or in kidney transplant patients have a higher risk of having complications from oral infections. It is imperative to let your dentist know if you have kidney disease, are on dialysis, or are a kidney transplant recipient, so they can proceed accordingly.

How to Prevent Oral Health Issues

Maintaining good oral health should be a high priority, especially for anyone with kidney disease. Here are some tips:
•  Floss your teeth at least once a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, using proper technique. Ask your dentist or hygienist if you have questions about when and how to properly floss.
•  Brush your teeth at least 2 times a day with a fluoridated toothpaste. Be sure to brush for at least 2 minutes and to use proper technique.
•  Use a fluoridated mouthwash with the ADA Seal of Acceptance on the label. This indicates that it has been approved by the American Dental Association to prevent plaque and gingivitis (early stage gum disease).
•  Regardless of whether you have dental concerns, be sure to schedule an appointment for a dental cleaning and exam at least every 6 months. This will help catch and treat and issues like decay or gum disease before they become more serious.
•  Medications that help treat kidney disease often cause dry mouth, which can increase the risk of cavities and gum disease. Chewing on sugarless gum, sucking on sugar-free hard candy, or using a saliva substitute like Biotene can help.
•  If you wear full or partial dentures, make sure to clean them thoroughly each night to prevent sores and ulcers.

Using these tips can help keep your mouth in optimal health, which in turn contributes to your overall health.

Dental Treatment and Kidney Disease

Many factors, such as severity of kidney disease and seriousness of dental issue, contribute to the considerations that should be taken before having dental treatment, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to approach it. Here are some things to consider:
•  It is imperative to be as honest and thorough as you can when filling out your dentist’s medical forms, including a full list of all your medications.
•  In general, it is best to address dental issues as soon as possible, since most dental problems only get worse with neglect. This is especially true for patients with kidney disease. Addressing dental treatment before it becomes advanced or invasive is essential.
•  Often, premedication is recommended before treatment, to decrease the risk of infection.
•  Patients on dialysis should schedule dental procedures for a non-treatment day.
•  While blood pressure should be monitored during dental treatment, make sure that a blood-pressure cuff is not being used on the dialysis-access arm, as this could lead to a blockage or infection.
•  If the dental treatment is invasive, the patient’s nephrologist should be consulted before treatment.

With increased attention to dental hygiene care, you can keep your teeth, gums, and the rest of your body healthier. If you have questions about your oral healthcare or how it affects the rest of your body, make an appointment to see your dentist.
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