Don’t Let Lupus Compromise Your Smile

Posted on Mar 22, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Over the years, I’ve shared many findings that have revealed links between the infectious bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease to other serious health problems. The culprit tends to originate in how oral bacteria can trigger systemic inflammation elsewhere in the body. Because the bacteria can become bloodborne through tears in weakened gum tissues, it can freely travel throughout the body and lead to chronic inflammatory reactions.

Periodontitis is an advanced stage of periodontal (gum) disease. In the mouth, it causes destructive inflammation that leads to the loss of the structures that support teeth. Eventually, this leads to tooth loss and is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S.

A person with Lupus, depending on the type of disease, faces a variety of oral health challenges. As an autoimmune disease, Lupus affects the collagen tissue in the entire body. This includes the collagen that exist in the tissues of the mouth. This adds to the problems of Lupus patients with longer healing times required after oral procedures as well as the common symptom of dry mouth.

When a mouth is dry, oral bacteria can more easily accumulate. Having a dry mouth contributes to an increased risk of developing cavities, gum disease and candidiasis, a fungal mouth infection. Dry mouth can cause the gums to become red and leukoplakic lesions to form on gum tissues. These are white, scaly patches that appear on the gum tissues inside the cheeks and/or on the palate and inner border of the lips.

To overcome the challenges of dry mouth, Lupus patients should practice ways to stimulate the production of saliva flow. This can be done by chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy.  They should drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep the mouth wet, preferably taking frequent sips. To soothe dry, cracked lips, a petroleum-based lip balm is recommended.

Dry mouth can be made worse by consuming caffeinated foods and beverages, spicy foods and alcoholic beverages. The worst drying agent to oral tissues is smoking or ‘chew.’

In addition to actions to prevent the problems associated with dry mouth, a saliva substitute may be helpful to replenish low saliva production. These products mimic some of the properties of saliva and help make the mouth feel wet. Some also contain fluoride, which can help to prevent cavities.  However, the benefits of saliva products are limited since they are eventually swallowed.  Because the effects last only a few hours, it may be necessary to use them several times a day.

Although the challenges that Lupus patients face are many, keeping good oral health can occur by devoting mere minutes to proactive oral health measures. In addition to helping to keep your mouth moist, be committed to a thorough at-home oral hygiene regimen. This includes daily flossing, twice daily brushing (at least two minutes each time), and limiting snacks.

We believe every person, regardless of their challenges, can enjoy a healthy, confident smile. If you have Lupus or any disease that creates hurdles when it comes to your oral health, let us help. Together, we can develop a plan that is appropriate for your individual needs. Call 828-274-9440 to arrange an examination to begin.

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