The Dental / Kidney Disease Connection
Good dental care is important for everyone, but especially for people with kidney disease. What might be a minor infection for a healthy person could be major problem for someone with kidney disease. Here’s a bit to explain more:
Germs attack (that’s infection). The body fights back (inflammation). “Inflammation” means “in flames,” which makes sense because an inflamed area can be red, hot and swollen.
In short, for battles with infection, inflammation is good because it helps the body kick into defense mode and gear up to kill germs. However, chronic or stubborn infections create continuous inflammation, which is harmful. Dental cavities and gum diseases are chronic bacterial infections. In addition to causing pain, difficulty eating, and mouth odors, dental cavities and gum infections can contribute to other problems by fueling harmful chronic inflammation. Also, germs that cause cavities and gum disease don’t stay put and may spread throughout the body, especially if your immune system is weak. Infections can be serious, even resulting in hospitalizations. Be sure to tell your dentist you have kidney disease, are on dialysis or are a kidney transplant recipient.
For People on Dialysis
For Transplant Candidates and Recipients
- Brush twice daily with a soft bristle brush and, ideally, floss once a day (or use a floss substitute such as opal-pix). “Thorough” is key. Take your time. Three surfaces on each tooth need to be brushed, and the two side surfaces flossed.
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste to help strengthen teeth against development of cavities. Your dentist may also suggest using fluoride or antimicrobial rinses.
- You may have a “dry mouth” as a side effect of some drugs used to treat kidney diseases. That makes it easier for cavities and gum diseases to develop. To increase saliva, try chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candy. You can also try a saliva substitute, such as Biotene.
- Regular dental exams, at least twice a year, can detect and treat cavities and gum disease before they become serious. A cleaning is helpful, too, by scraping away tartar that irritates the gums.
- Full or partial dentures should be carefully cleaned daily and removed at night to prevent development of sore spots or ulcers.