Because it's a disease that affects the entire body, lupus can cause problems in unexpected areas. One lesser-known way it affects many sufferers is with dental and oral hygiene problems. How can you avoid complications and find relief at the dentist?
Be Aware of Potential Trouble
Lupus patients need to practice regular preventive care of their mouths. Unfortunately, lupus itself can cause salivary gland disease or other dry mouth symptoms. Additionally, the medicines taken to treat it can also cause dry mouth (xerostomia). Dry mouth is more than just uncomfortable; it reduces your natural ability to wash away food and bacteria with saliva, making you more prone to tooth decay and even periodontitis. So keep your mouth moist by drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, avoiding dehydration or salty foods and using a mix of water and mouthwash at times during the day.
Also, many people with lupus experience mouth sores (commonly referred to as ulcers) and even burning inside the mouth. If you experience these symptoms, a dentist may be able to treat them and avoid exacerbating ulcers with dental work during flare-ups.
Get Your Dentist Involved
To help treat lupus-related dental problems, make your dentist a regular part of your health care regime. Let him or her know about any symptoms you're experiencing and all medications you're taking. Put the dentist in touch with your rheumatologist so that the two can coordinate care and understand your particular case.
Why is this important? Lupus compromises the immune system, which can cause serious risks when having even minor surgery or dental work. For example, if your immune system is seriously suppressed, you may need to be prescribed antibiotics before invasive dental work. The same is true if you have a history of heart problems such as infective endocarditis.
Such prophylactic antibiotics help the body fight off infections that may enter the bloodstream when oral tissues are punctured or bleed, preventing bacteria from causing potentially life-threatening infections in the heart or other weak spots in a person with lupus.
And since lupus causes a higher risk of bleeding complications, discuss with your dentist what measures he or she can take to limit bleeding during dental procedures. Be sure to share the results of blood tests with your dentist to determine your blood counts and risk levels before dental work.
Managing and treating lupus is a difficult and time-consuming task. But by staying aware of the way it affects your dental health and working with your dentist on a regular basis, you can take better control of its effects. (For information on treatment, contact Arrowhead Family Dentistry)