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Understanding oral health challenges when you have kidney disease

Man in a dentist's chair

When you have kidney disease, managing your oral health can be more complicated. You’ll want to work with both your medical doctor and dentist to balance the needs of your oral and overall health.

I have kidney disease. What should I tell my dentist?

Make sure your dentist knows what’s going on with your overall health and knows who your medical doctor is, so they can work together.

Tell your dentist:

  • What medications you’re taking.
  • If you’re on dialysis.
  • If you have a stent and where it is located.
  • If you notice your teeth becoming loose – this can be a sign of a calcium imbalance.
  • If you also have diabetes.
  • If your mouth frequently feels dry.

What complications can kidney disease cause to my oral health?

A Journal of Clinical Periodontology study showed that people with kidney disease and/or who are on dialysis are more likely to have oral health problems like periodontal (gum) disease than those with no kidney issues. While we all have bacteria in our mouth, someone with kidney disease who also has a buildup of bacteria in his or her mouth is more susceptible to infection because of a weakened immune system.

If your kidney disease is the result of having diabetes, then you may have additional issues such as “dry mouth,” which can be a side effect of medication and illness. Dry mouth affects your ability to produce saliva, which normally helps clean your mouth and teeth. As a result, you are at higher risk of bacteria and plaque building up and leading to gum disease and tooth decay. There are several over-the-counter aids for dry mouth, so be sure to tell your dentist if you’re having problems and ask for a recommendation.

How does diabetes play into kidney disease?

Diabetes can be the cause of chronic kidney disease, and can make you prone to additional oral health dangers, including:

  • Fungal infections
  • Cavities (tooth decay)
  • Salivary gland problems
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Delayed healing and infections

What if I need to have a dental procedure? Is it safe?

If you have kidney disease and are scheduled to have a dental procedure, be sure to tell your medical doctor. Your dentist should also be aware that you have kidney disease and/or are on dialysis. It is possible antibiotics will be prescribed before your dental procedure to help reduce the risk of infection. If you are on dialysis, make sure you schedule your dental procedure on a non-treatment day. Once your procedure is finished and you’re recovering, be extra careful that you follow your dentist’s instructions as well as maintain regular oral hygiene.

Remember: Be upfront about your kidney and oral health issues and make sure you communicate to both your doctor and dentist on a regular basis. Having regular cleanings and exams to avoid dental problems like gum disease and tooth decay is especially important if you suffer from kidney disease.

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Last updated: July 2018

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.