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Kidney and Mouth Connection

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
As we've learned time in and time out, the oral cavity is integrally and systematically linked to the health of various other bodily systems - here we are focusing on kidneys. The kidneys serve for the production of urine as their primary function, excreting unnecessary bodily fluids and compounds. Kidneys also have several secondary functions concerned with homeostatic functions. These include the regulation of electrolytes, acid-base balance, and blood pressure. If you have kidney problems, apart from the well-advertised urinary and
homeostatic problems, your oral health could deteriorate as well!


People with long-lasting (or even recently discovered) kidney problems often times have a bad taste in their mouths. Also related, they often have bad breath (halitosis). These problems - both of which are indicators of a serious problem in your system - occur because the kidneys fail to remove the organic compound urea from the blood. Urea breaks down to form  ammonia, which has a pungent odor that is quickly noticeable; bone changes may also occur because the body cannot absorb calcium properly. Imbalanced calcium levels will weaken your bones, loosing bone from your jaw. Teeth may become loose or eventually fall out because of the calcium deficiency often resulting from kidney disease. The best way to help prevent bone loss is to make sure calcium and phosphorus levels stay within the goal range.

Anorexia, anemia, xerostomia, high blood pressure and heart disease, inflammation of the mouth, salivary glands and gum disease can all be symptoms and complications when dealing with kidney disease, apart from the influence of medication. When you have these symptoms, not only should a dental professional be contacted to provide dental examinations and treatment, but also a physical examination is needed.  If you have kidney disease or are on dialysis, you should plan to receive any dental treatments on non-dialysis days for those on hemodialysis. Heperin, administered during hemodialysis, may cause some people to have prolonged bleeding. Kidney disease can also weaken the immune system and make us more susceptible to infection, so prophylactic antibiotics maybe needed before invasive dental treatment.

During the work up for a kidney transplant, a person will need to have a thorough oral examination. Any infection or disease of the gum or tooth can prevent someone from being  eligible, or delay the transplant until the patient is free of gum and dental infection .

Keep up your home care program, brush and floss after every meal and follow a properly designed diet by your dietitian. Special dietary needs must be met if you have a compromised kidney condition. Regular visits to the dentist can also reduce the risk of oral infection and dental disease.
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