Is it Time to Visit the Dentist?

July 01, 2015, 4:46pm EDT

Oral Health Before and After Transplant
Cher Thomas, RDH

Everyone likes to have an attractive smile; however, keeping a healthy smile is much more than just appearances. Before and after transplantation, we are at an increased risk for oral infections that may require working with your healthcare team.

Dental Care Before an Organ Transplant

Before an organ transplant you must be as healthy as possible. This means minimizing any infections you may have in your body, including your mouth. Before you schedule a dental appointment, you should consult with your physician to determine if your health is appropriate and stable for dental treatment. Both your physician and your dentist want to give you the safest care possible. They may have questions or concerns regarding whether you will need to take antibiotics prior to your appointment, if you’re at risk for oral infections after a procedure or excessive bleeding during a procedure, what medications you’re taking, and what co-existing health conditions you might have. Your dentist will also need to request a medical release in writing before any dental treatment is performed. You can ask your dentist to request this in advance from your physician before your first dental appointment.

Dental Care After Organ Transplant

After an organ transplant, routine dental work is not recommended until at least three months post-transplant. Even then, after transplant you should consult with your physician to confirm whether it is safe for you to seek dental treatment. You may need to take antibiotics prior to your appointment. Your physician will evaluate your risk of developing an infection, the possibility of excessive bleeding during a dental procedure, what medications you’re taking, and what co-existing health conditions you might have. Again, you should notify your dentist in advance of your dental appointment to allow time for a dental consultation and a medical release from your physician.

Because immunosuppressive medications can have side effects that can cause dental problems, dental providers will thoroughly check your teeth for new cavities and your gums for gingivitis and gum disease. You will be advised how to best care for your teeth and gums and may need to visit the dentist more frequently than before you received a kidney transplant.

Immunosuppressive drugs and other medications can also make your mouth more susceptible to dry mouth, bacterial infections, oral yeast infections, viral infections, ulcers, and delayed wound healing. It is important that you work closely with your dental team to develop a home care routine that addresses all of your dental needs. Lastly, immunosuppressive medications put transplant patients at a higher risk for oral cancer. Even if you wear dentures, you should still see a dentist regularly to have a professional oral cancer screening.

A healthy mouth is an important part of staying “infection free” after transplant.  See your dentist regularly to learn how to keep your mouth as healthy as possible!

Publications that will also be helpful for pre and post-transplant recipients include:

Organ or Stem Cell Transplant and Your Mouth 

What Every Transplant Patient Needs to Know About Dental Care

Finding Low Cost Dental Care


About the Author:

Cher Thomas, RDH, is a registered dental hygienist and has worked in dentistry for 35 years. She has written and delivered countless oral health articles and presentations to other patients and healthcare providers. Cher is a renal transplant recipient for over 16 years, and her brother, Robert, is her donor.