Lupus and Oral Care
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.
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!
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