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The Link Between Lupus and Teeth

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Believe it or not, cavities, mouth sores and oral fungal problems are some of the afflictions that may occur in people with lupus. Disorders associated with lupus can cause these oral symptoms, while the side effects of lupus medications can also occur in the oral cavity. Although the condition does not directly target teeth, lupus and teeth problems frequently occur together.


According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lupus is known medically as systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disorder that results in chronic inflammation. African American and Asian women are most at risk of developing the condition. The wide range of lupus symptoms can make the disease difficult to diagnose, but a particular type of mouth ulcer is a clear sign.

Paul D. Freedman, DDS of the Hospital for Special Surgery explains that people with lupus can develop red ulcers on the lower lip, inner cheeks and roof of the mouth. These ulcers are surrounded by a white halo with similarly coloured lines radiating outwards, and they may or may not cause irritation. Those experiencing an active period of the disorder can develop ulcers quite easily.

Sjogren's Syndrome

Dr. Freedman also refers to Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that targets the salivary and lacrimal glands, which produce saliva and tears, respectively. Sjogren's Syndro me affects 20 to 30 percent of people with lupus, but only 1 to 2 percent of the general population. Nonetheless, a major symptom of this condition is the (painless) enlargement of the salivary glands, usually on both sides of the head.

Sjogren's Syndrome primarily causes the salivary glands to reduce their output of saliva, which leads to dry mouth. Saliva helps regulate levels of acidity in the oral cavity; without it protecting the teeth, cavities can quickly form. The mouth contains 500 types of germs, as stated by the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), and 11 of these germs cause periodontal disease. Without saliva protecting your mouth against these germs, teeth are more susceptible to cavities.

Dr. Freedman also mentions that saliva has antifungal properties. Therefore, people with Sjogren's Syndrome can develop sores at the corners of their mouths caused by fungal infections that saliva isn't there to prevent.

Lupus Medications

A range of medications treat the symptoms of lupus, but some of them may actually further the connection between lupus and teeth. According to the LFA, there are over 400 medications that can cause mouth dryness, and many of them are focused on lupus. The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation says that corticosteroids, which are often prescribed for lupus, can cause mouth dryness. Also, Dr. Freedman suggests mouth ulcers that are white, red or both may be caused by lupus medications.

If you experience lupus, pay more attention to oral health to reduce your risk of dental decay. Consider using a fluoride mouth rinse after big meals to help counteract the effects of a dry mouth. Although problems with lupus and teeth can be serious, treatment is available.

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