While routine dental care and good oral hygiene is important for everyone, it becomes critically important for those with kidney disease. What can be a minor infection that is easily treatable for a healthy person could potentially become a major problem for someone who is battling kidney disease.
Gum disease and dental cavities are chronic bacterial infections. Chronic infection causes inflammation that becomes continuous; continually painful and increasingly harmful to other areas in the body. Inflammation is caused by the body fighting back against germs which are on the attack, and the results are an unsightly and uncomfortable combination of the area becoming red, hot and swollen, and painful.
Inflammation is the body’s natural way of fighting and killing germs; a natural defense mechanism designed to protect us from further potentially dangerous infections and great harm. Additionally, germs that cause gum disease and cavities can spread throughout the body. This is often related to a weakened immune system, causing the spread of serious infections, and possible hospitalization. It’s critically important to inform your dentist if you have or have had kidney disease, are on dialysis, a kidney transplant recipient, or even have a prosthetic hip, knee or ankle replacement.
Patients that require dialysis treatment are often prescribed blood thinning medications which prevent clotting during the procedure. While often dental procedures may cause bleeding, it’s critical that dental visits be scheduled on days that dialysis is not scheduled.
Transplant candidates and recipients
Prior to a kidney transplant, there is a screening process to rule out, and treat if necessary, any infections in order to prevent any post-transplant complications. An important part of the evaluation process is a complete dental health exam. Any sign of dental infection can delay, or possibly prevent being approved for a kidney transplant. Also taken into consideration are the medications used to prevent rejection of the new kidney, which can sometimes weaken the immune system’s defenses against infection.
A new study led by the University of Birmingham, UK, has found that patients with chronic kidney disease and periodontitis experience a drop in survival rates, similar in magnitude to if they had diabetes instead of gum inflammation, suggesting that gum inflammation may affect kidney function.
In order to test the hypothesis that kidney function can be affected by dental inflammation, over 700 patients with chronic kidney disease were examined. Blood samples were taken, physical exams, including an oral exam were performed to determine the possible related connection to periodontal inflammation and kidney function, and what might facilitate this.
Results showed that just a 10% increase in gum inflammation reduces kidney function by 3%. In this group of patients, a 3% worsening in kidney function would translate to an increase in the risk of kidney failure over a 5-year period from 32%-34%. Results also showed that a 10% reduction in kidney function increases periodontal inflammation by 25%. It also showed that even a modest reduction in gum inflammation can benefit renal function.
Some important tips about dental care:
- Using a soft bristle brush, it is recommended to brush twice daily, and floss once a day.
- Use fluoridated toothpaste and antimicrobial rinses.
- Prevent “dry mouth”, often associated with prescription drugs used to treat kidney disease and provide a breeding ground for cavities and gum disease, try chewing sugarless gum, or using a saliva substitute, such as products like Biotene.
- Regular cleaning to eliminate tartar, along with regular dental exams to ensure good dental health.
- Full or partial dentures should be cleaned daily.
Proper dental health can help prevent the potential of gum disease, inflammation and periodontal disease, which in the long term has proven to be beneficial if the need for a transplant or dialysis becomes necessary.