Oral Health and Your Transplant

May 1, 2012

A key component of long-term transplant success is taking care of your whole body—this includes making oral health a priority.

What does dental hygiene have to do with my transplant?
For starters, your anti-rejection medications increase the risk of infection, and an infection that starts in the mouth can eventually end up in the bloodstream, where it could begin to endanger your transplant.1 For this reason—even when you are awaiting a transplant—it is important that you have no bleeding gums or cavities that could lead to an infection down the road.

What steps do I need to take after transplant?
Invasive oral procedures are not recommended until your transplant has stabilized. But due to your increased risk for infection, it is never too early to talk to your transplant team if you anticipate needing a procedure that may aggravate your gums—such as a tooth pulling or a dental cleaning—as you may need to take antibiotics to guard against possible infection. Coordinate with both your dentist and your transplant team to make sure none of the medications that you’re currently taking will interfere with the antibiotics you may need for the procedure. In fact, you should inform all healthcare professionals that you are a transplant recipient. They may have additional advice or tips you can include in your daily oral health routine.

What can I do to promote good oral health?
The importance of maintaining good oral hygiene habits after transplantation cannot be overemphasized. Fortunately, the decision to maintain good oral health is entirely yours. The following steps are recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA):

  • Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss once daily
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months
  • Visit your dentist regularly

It is recommended that you check your mouth and gums daily for white or red patches, dryness, lumps, bleeding gums, sores, or ulcers. If you notice any such issues, contact your dentist immediately, so that these can be investigated and addressed early.

What does my diet have to do with my oral health?
You probably already know that it's best to stay away from “sticky” foods—like candies, dried fruits, and chewing gum—which are associated with tooth decay, and that simple carbohydrates—often found in cookies, pasta, and white breads—can generate acid-releasing plaque known to wear away at the enamel. But a balanced diet can play a significant role in strengthening your oral health, too:

  • Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C and folic acid, important for maintaining healthy gums; they are also high in fiber, which can help prevent the buildup of plaque in your mouth
  • Fish, poultry, lean meats, and beans are high in protein, which is vital for tissue growth and repair, such as healing wounds in your mouth
  • Whole grain bread, cereal, and rice are good sources of iron and vitamin B, which are vital for blood and oral circulation
  • Water throughout the day can help prevent plaque growth

Turning your commitment to good oral health into daily practice is just one important way you can honor the larger commitment to your transplant health—for a long and successful journey ahead.

This information is from Astellas' Transplant Experience.