About Lupus

Lupus Coping Corner

Lupus and Oral Care

Jessica Rowshandel, M.S.W.
Amy Caron
Project Director
Lupus Research Institute

Always Learning About Lupus

Every year, our five-borough Hospital Tour is one of the most popular events, bringing experts in lupus care to speak directly to patients about topics of common interest. This year’s Tour will make two more stops that we urge you to hop on. And if you cannot make it in person, we have summaries of the presentations and later this year will have videotapes of each program up on our websites.

I learned so much at my first Hospital Tour Annual Lupus Patient-Education Series a couple of years ago that I want to share—information that is just as helpful today as the night it was presented.  Here is what I learned from one of those stops  about basic dental care.

Common Lupus Challenge: Caring for Your Mouth

In the lupus community, there is a lot of focus on the damage the disease can do to major organs such as the kidneys, lungs, and heart. These are all very important.

But having lupus can also affect the health of your mouth—which can in turn affect your overall health, your physical comfort, and your feelings about your appearance. For example, did you know that as much as a quarter of people with lupus have oral sores? These sores—often painless—can appear on the roof of the mouth, the lips, and the gums.

And medicines taken for lupus, such as corticosteroids (steroids), can cause problems such as dryness in the mouth, swelling, cold sores, yeast infections, and damage to bones that help the mouth function correctly (such as the jaw bone)?

Don’t panic. Thankfully, there are many steps that you can take to keep your mouth healthy!

Spark a Friendship Between Your Dentist and Rheumatologist

(Or at least put them in touch with each other!)

It’s very important to tell the dentist that you have lupus. Provide him or her with your rheumatologist’s phone number to encourage contact between the two; the dentist should have a history of your condition and an idea of how lupus has uniquely affected you.

The dentist should also find out if you have had oral sores in the past, and get a list of the medicines, vitamins, and dietary supplements that you take. Knowing your medical history can help make sure that cleanings and other dental work are done in a safe and effective way.

Regular Care, Regular Visits

Keeping your mouth healthy means taking the same steps you take daily to keep lupus under control. Dentists will agree with your rheumatologist’s suggestions to: avoid direct sunlight, get enough sleep, keep stress levels low, take prescribed medicines, and so on.

Also do what you can to avoid dryness in the mouth, which can both be unpleasant as well as raise the real risk of getting more cavities, causing gum damage, and leading to dentures and fillings falling out. To keep your mouth moist:

  • try drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water or more a day
  • spray a mix of water and a little mouthwash into your mouth regularly
  • avoid overly salty foods, tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and other things that might dehydrate you.

Finally, get your teeth cleaned regularly—see your dentist more often than you otherwise might. Many recommend visiting every three months rather than every six.

Smile Bright!

Stay alert to the important link between dentist and rheumatologist, and between you and your dentist—and smile bright knowing you have the right tools and information to take good care of your mouth!

Visit our website for other simple suggestions, print brochures, catch up on our past webinars to learn more about lupus and share the information on your social media pages.

Update: We are no longer accepting comments on our site, but please share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Lupus Coping Corner

Disclaimer: The information provided by the S.L.E Lupus Foundation is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a medical or mental illness, nor be a substitute for professional care. Consult your healthcare provider if you have or suspect you may have a medical or mental health problem.

Amy Caron, MPH is a lupus patient and Project Director of the Lupus Research Institute provider education initiative.  She is not a physician or counselor.  The suggestions shared in this column are strictly opinions from the perspective of a lay person with lupus. Lupus is a very individualized illness; consult a healthcare professional before making any decisions about your care.

The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation does not provide any direct medical or psychological services nor recommend or endorse any particular treatment or therapy. The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation employees, consultants, and agents shall not be liable for any claims or damages, and expressly disclaim all liability of any nature for any action or non-action taken as a result of the information generated by the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation programs and its website, as well as the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Facebook and Twitter pages.