Good dental health isn’t just about preventing cavities and keeping your gums healthy. Both tooth decay and gum disease can lead to infections that can cause problems for people with kidney disease and those who have diabetes.
Both tooth decay and gum disease are caused by plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that coats the teeth. The sugars and starches of the food you eat react with the plaque, causing it to release acids. These acids wear away the hard tooth enamel, eventually leading to cavities and tooth decay. Enamel protects the center of the tooth called the pulp. If the cavity is not treated and more decay occurs, the tooth’s enamel can be eaten away to the point where the pulp is exposed. Bacteria can then enter and cause an infection called an abscess.
Symptoms of advanced tooth decay include:
Gum disease starts when plaque accumulates and hardens over time. This hardened plaque is called tartar. Tartar settles at your gum line and can make your gums sensitive and irritated. If you notice your gums bleed after brushing your teeth, this is a symptom of gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. Left untreated, tartar can build up to the point where the gums pull away from your teeth. This gap forms pockets that let in food and bacteria, which can cause infections. This stage of gum disease is called periodontitis.
Early signs of gum disease include:
Both tooth decay and gum disease can be treated and are preventable if caught in its early stages. The American Dental Association recommends the following:
Brushing your teeth will help remove excess plaque, as well as any acids that can harm your tooth enamel. Flossing will help clear the excess plaque and food debris from between the teeth, preventing the build up that can lead to tartar.
A professional teeth cleaning is part of good dental hygiene and should be performed at your checkups to the dentist. Tartar can only be removed by your dentist or your dental hygienist. A professional teeth cleaning can help ensure that your gums remain healthy and help prevent problems tartar can cause.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology reported that people with kidney disease and those on dialysis are more likely to have periodontal disease and other oral health problemsthan the general population. Buildup of bacteria in the mouth can cause infection. Because people with kidney disease have weakened immune systems, they are more susceptible to infections. The inflammation caused by periodontal disease is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Regular visits to the dentist can cut risk of infection and periodontal disease.
Bone loss in the jaw can occur in those with kidney disease. Calcium imbalance contributes to loss of calcium from the bones resulting in weak bones. Weak bones can cause teeth to become loose and potentially fall out. The best way to help prevent bone loss is to make sure calcium and phosphorus levels stay within the goal range.
Kidney patients are advised to tell their kidney doctor when a dental procedure is required. The doctor may recommend antibiotics be taken prior to the procedure to help guard against infection. The dentist should be made aware that their patient has kidney disease or is on dialysis. The dentist will take this into consideration during treatment and if prescribing medicines. Ideally, dental procedures, such as tooth extraction, should occur on a non-dialysis day for those on hemodialysis. Heparin, administered during hemodialysis, may cause some people to have extra bleeding.
During workup for a kidney transplant a person will undergo a thorough oral exam. Infections from gum disease or advanced tooth decay can prevent someone from being eligible or delay the transplant until dental work is completed.
Diabetes is one of the major causes of chronic kidney disease. If your renal disease is caused by diabetes, you should know that those with diabetes are more prone to dental problems like gum disease and tooth decay. Because diabetes can affect your dental health, it’s important to let your dentist know that you are diabetic.
According to the American Dental Association, diabetes is linked to periodontal disease. Patients with poor diabetes control often have more instances of gum disease and lose more teeth than those with good diabetes control.
Diabetics are at higher risk for the following dental problems:
One of the symptoms of diabetes is dry mouth. Saliva helps moisten food to prepare it for chewing and digestion. It also helps wash away the germs that create plaque as well as sugar from the foods we eat. Dry mouth can lead to an increase in plaque and sugar in the mouth, which can mean an increase in tooth decay and gum disease.
If your diabetes is not managed well, your saliva may have high glucose levels. Bacteria can feed on the glucose and release more acids which can wear away at tooth enamel. Also, high levels of plaque in the mouth can lead to tartar buildup.
Infections are a problem for diabetics. Diabetes slows down the healing process, and an infection from advanced tooth decay or gum disease can take a longer time to heal. Regular dental check ups and following your dentist’s recommendations regarding hygiene can prevent an infection or stop one from getting worse.
Because kidney patients may be occupied with treating their renal disease, they may forget to visit their dentist and use other measures to prevent dental disease. People with chronic kidney disease are at risk for dental problems such as gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss. Left untreated, these problems can cause infections which can lead to more overall health issues. Both gum disease and tooth decay are treatable and preventable; following the dentist’s recommendations regarding brushing, flossing, exams twice a year and professional teeth cleaning can help teeth and gums stay healthy.
This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a physician.
Please check with a physician if you need a diagnosis and/or for treatments as well as information regarding your specific condition. If you are experiencing urgent medical conditions, call 9-1-1