You’ve been told it’s good to have healthy teeth. That’s because a healthy smile is part of a healthier you. Good oral health means having clean and healthy teeth and gums. And healthy teeth and gums can help prevent common dental problems like:
- Cavities (holes in the outer layer of your teeth)
- Gum disease (infection of the gums)
Did you know good oral health is extra important for people with sickle cell disease (SCD)? People with sickle cell disease are at risk for oral health complications. Also, sickle cell disease can cause problems with the immune system and make people with SCD more prone to infections, including infections in the mouth. Oral health complications, including infections, can put people with SCD at risk of a sickle cell crisis.
The good news is there are ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Use these tips to help prevent dental problems.
Find a dentist.
A healthy mouth starts with finding the right dentist. Look for one who knows or is willing to learn about sickle cell disease and create a treatment plan for you. Then make sure your dentist works with your health care team to:
- Create a treatment plan that is right for you
- Make sure any work or procedures you need are done safely and as quickly as possible
- Help your dentist understand how best to manage pain and lessen the possibility of infection
Prepare for dental work.
Before you have any dental work or procedures, talk with your health care team and dentist to create a treatment plan together. Follow the checklist below before each dental visit.
- Remind your dentist of your diagnosis of sickle cell disease
- Give your dentist the name and phone number of your hematologist
- Let your dentist know:
- about your treatment plan and what medications you are taking
- what a typical crisis may look like for you
- what methods you use for pain management
- if you have other medical conditions
- if you need antibiotics as a pretreatment
- if you have a port
- any complications you have had with previous dental work
Practice good oral care.
Many dental problems are caused by the build-up of plaque in your mouth. Plaque is a sticky film on your teeth that’s made when bacteria mix with food. Plaque build-up can weaken your teeth and gums.
Good oral care removes plaque to help prevent some dental problems, like cavities and gum disease.
What does good oral care mean? It means:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Use a soft, rounded toothbrush to protect your gums. Check your toothpaste label to make sure fluoride is listed as an ingredient.
- Flossing your teeth once a day after brushing to remove any remaining plaque
Keep a healthy smile.
The best way to avoid oral health problems is to practice good dental hygiene. Follow these tips to help prevent dental problems:
- Practice good oral care. Stay on track with brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Have your teeth cleaned at least twice a year. Talk to your dentist about how often to schedule your visits.
- Limit foods and drinks with sugar. Sugar from your food and drinks helps plaque grow.
- Get enough fluoride. Fluoride helps strengthen your teeth and prevents cavities. Ask your dentist if you need a fluoride supplement too.
- Quit smoking and avoid using tobacco. Smoking or chewing tobacco can lead to gum disease and mouth cancer. If you smoke, talk to you doctor about ways to stop smoking.
For additional support, talk to your health care provider or call the CVS Specialty® Sickle Cell Disease CareTeam at 1-844-641-0413.