Posted May 8, 2015
There’s no doubt that organ transplants save lives. The problem is, medications prescribed for patients before and after transplant surgery may cause several oral health issues. Review this list of six things to watch for:
- Immune system suppression – Medications prescribed for transplant patients may lead to dental problems, such as infections, yeast, tooth decay and herpes simplex. Any changes in oral health should be reported for appropriate treatment.
- Excessive bleeding – Organ failure may lower the platelet count, resulting in blood clotting problems. This is especially a concern for individuals with a non-functioning liver.
- Dry mouth – Medications may lower production of saliva, which is necessary to remove food particles from teeth and gums, increasing risk for tooth decay.
- Ulcers – Transplant patients may develop sores in oral tissues, creating pain when speaking, swallowing, chewing or brushing teeth.
- Swollen gums – Gum tissue may become enlarged and overlap teeth, making it difficult to brush and floss teeth to remove trapped food particles. Typically gums are tender and bleed easily.
- Oral cancer – Organ transplant patients who use tobacco products may be at increased risk of oral cancer.
It’s recommended that transplant patients schedule a dental checkup and professional cleaning before surgery to reduce the risk of oral health problems. Following surgery, medical experts recommend waiting at least three months for dental treatment, unless an emergency arises.
Organ Transplant Facts
The U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and EveryDay Health provide facts about organ transplants:
- The need for organs exceeds the number of transplants available, with more than 124,000 people on waiting lists.
- Only 28,000 organ transplant surgeries were performed in 2014.
- Every day, an average of 21 individuals waiting for organs die.