Getting a transplant? Your dentist can help

About 80 Americans receive a new heart, lung, liver, pancreas, kidney or intestine each day, according to the US Government’s OPTN Data Reports. Organ donation saves lives, but a new organ isn’t just a get-out-of-disease-free card.


Like any medical procedure, organ transplants come with side effects. Medicine taken to prevent organ rejection also weakens the immune system, leading to more than 80% of transplant recipients developing least one oral infection, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. If you or a loved one is getting an organ transplant, here are five ways to keep mouth and body healthy before, during and after this life-changing procedure.

Tell your dentist about your transplant.

Visit the dentist before your procedure to take care of any cavities or other oral health issues before your immunity is affected by either the surgery or medication. After the transplant, avoid in-office dental treatment for at least three months. This prevents complications from your transplant medicine, which is usually taken at the highest dosage right after the procedure. That said, if you are experiencing a dental emergency, always reach out to your dentist.

Be sure your dentist and physician coordinate your care.

Dental history is a specific part of your overall medical history. Talk to both your dentist and physician about what’s happening with your mouth and body before and after a transplant. Be sure to mention all medications you’re taking. The more you keep your dentist and physician in the loop, the better they can work together to support your oral and overall health. 

Share medication information with your dentist.

Medications that help your body accept the transplant also suppress your immune system, as well as other potential side effects. Always share your full list of medications so your dentist and doctor can be aware of any drug interactions and work to manage any side effects that arise. When it comes to medications and dosages, keep your medical professionals fully informed. 

Look for side effects.

Anti-rejection medication makes it more likely for you to develop dry mouth, sores in your mouth, gum disease, mouth infections, enlarged gums or oral cancer. Contact your dentist and physician if you develop white or red patches in your mouth, find a lump or notice bleeding when you brush your teeth. If you experience a symptom you’re unsure about, contact your physician or dentist. Don’t let something minor turn into something major.

See what your dental plan will cover.

Your dental plan may offer enhanced benefits, like additional cleanings, if you have specific health conditions or a suppressed immune system. SmileWay® Wellness Benefits, for example, offers additional cleanings and periodontal maintenance for diabetes, stroke and other health issues.

Getting a new organ will transform your whole body, but you’ll have to play your part as well. By following these tips and getting your full medical and dental team on board, you can minimize the side effects and keep that smile through it all.