Visting Dentist & Lupus
The Link Between Lupus And Teeth
People who have lupus often struggle with tooth decay, mouth sores and oral infections. Diseases affiliated with lupus can cause these oral issues. In addition, some lupus medications can cause side effects in the oral cavity. Even though lupus does not specifically target teeth, lupus and teeth problems often times occur simultaneously.
The University of Maryland medically defines lupus as a systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease which causes chronic inflammation. African American and Asian women are the highest risk for developing the condition. Because the symptoms vary so drastically, the disease can be difficult to diagnose. A specific type of mouth ulcer is a common indicator the disease is present.
It is possible for people with lupus to develop red ulcers in various places of their mouth including the lower lip, inner cheeks and on the roof of the mouth. The ulcers have a white halo around the edge with light colored lines spreading out. They sometimes cause irritation but not always. People who are experiencing what is referred to as an “active period” of the disease can easily develop ulcers.
Another autoimmune disease known as Sjogren's Syndrome targets the glands that make tears and saliva. 20-30 perfect of people with lupus are also affected by Sjogren's Syndrome. Only 1-2 percent of the general population are impacted. A common symptom of this condition is enlarged salivary glands which are located on both sides of the head. While inconvenient, this symptom does not cause pain.
With Sjogren's Syndrome, the production of saliva from the salivary glands is reduced. This often results in the person experiencing a dry mouth. Because saliva aids in the regulation of acid levels in the oral cavity, when it is reduced and not protecting the teeth, cavities can soon form. According to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), the mouth contains 500 different types of bacteria. 11 of these bacteria can cause periodontal disease. When saliva fails to protect your mouth from this bacteria, teeth are at a higher risk for decay.
Another important factor is that saliva does not have any antifungal properties. As a result, people who have Sjogren's Syndrome often develop sores in the corners of their mouths due to the fungal infections that lack of saliva can’t prevent.
Medications for Lupus
There are a variety of medications used to treat the symptoms of lupus. Unfortunately, some of the medications can further the affiliation between lupus and the teeth. There are more than 400 medications which can cause mouth dryness and many of them are used for lupus patients. Specifically, corticosteroids, which are often prescribed for patients who have lupus, can particularly cause mouth dryness. Additionally, red and/or white mouth ulcers can be caused by various lupus medications.
It is important for people who have lupus to closely monitor their oral health. This can help reduce the increased risk of dental decay. Rinsing the mouth with a fluoride rinse following eating can help reverse the effects of a dry mouth. The oral issues associated with lupus can be serious. Fortunately, there are treatment options available and ways to combat the side effects.