Lupus can cause a wide range of symptoms, potentially affecting your oral health, including your teeth and gums.

Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly targets healthy tissues and organs, causing a wide range of symptoms.

In some cases, the condition can affect your oral health, potentially involving your teeth and gums.

Research suggests that people with SLE face an increased chance of oral health problems.

Lupus can affect your teeth in various ways, including the following:

  • Gingivitis and periodontitis: These inflammatory conditions affect gums and tooth-supporting structures, potentially causing issues like gum recession, loose teeth, and even tooth loss. Research suggests that factors like genetics, shared oral bacteria, immune system dysregulation, and common environmental elements may contribute to these problems in individuals with lupus.
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia): Some individuals with lupus may experience dry mouth due to Sjögren’s disease, which can be a secondary condition. Reduced saliva flow can contribute to tooth decay and other oral problems.
  • Jaw pain and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues: Lupus can cause joint pain and inflammation, including TMJ, which can result in jaw pain, difficulty opening and closing your mouth, and problems with biting and chewing.
  • Medication side effects: Medications to manage lupus symptoms, such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressants, may have side effects that affect oral health, like increased susceptibility to infections or delayed wound healing.
  • Tooth decay: Lupus-related factors, including medication-induced dry mouth, can contribute to an increased chance of tooth decay.
  • Oral ulcers: Lupus can cause painful mouth ulcers or sores, affecting the oral mucosa, including the gums, tongue, and inner cheeks.
  • Vasculitis: In some cases, lupus-related vasculitis can lead to oral complications by affecting blood vessels in the oral cavity.

Caring for your teeth when you have lupus is important for maintaining good oral health and preventing complications.

Here are some tips on dental care, along with dental treatments that may be helpful:

  • Regular dental check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups, ideally every 6 months. These visits can help find and address oral health issues early. Keep your dentist informed about your lupus diagnosis and any medications you’re taking.
  • Mouth rinses: Consider using antimicrobial or fluoride mouth rinses, especially if you have a history of dental problems.
  • Manage medication side effects: If you’re taking medications that cause dry mouth, discuss options for managing this condition with your dentist. You can treat dry mouth with saliva substitutes.
  • Oral hygiene: Maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and floss daily. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush to avoid damaging your gums.
  • Fluoride applications: Your dentist may apply fluoride varnish to strengthen your tooth enamel, especially if you have dry mouth.
  • Dietary considerations: A balanced diet that’s low in sugar and acidic foods can help prevent tooth decay. Drinking plenty of water can also help reduce dry mouth.
  • Custom mouthguards: If you have TMJ problems or grind your teeth due to lupus-related joint pain, your dentist may recommend a custom-made mouthguard to protect your teeth.
  • Treatment of oral lesions: If you develop oral ulcers or lesions due to lupus flares, your dentist can recommend topical treatments to relieve discomfort.
  • Periodontal care: If you have gum problems, your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings and scaling to manage gingivitis and periodontitis.

Whitening your teeth when you have lupus requires special care to ensure your oral health and overall well-being.

Here are some tips for safe whitening:

  • Professional whitening: In-office teeth whitening by your dentist is often the safest choice for individuals with lupus. They can use the appropriate products and monitor your progress.
  • Avoid harsh DIY methods: Steer clear of over-the-counter whitening kits and harsh DIY remedies. These can be abrasive and may worsen any oral sensitivity you experience due to lupus.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene: Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups are crucial. Lupus may increase the risk of gum problems, so diligent oral care is essential.
  • Opt for non-abrasive toothpaste: Choose a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth to avoid further irritation.
  • Stay hydrated: Lupus and its medications can lead to dry mouth. Drinking water can help keep your mouth moist and reduce discomfort.

Lupus can lead to various dental problems, mostly stemming from the autoimmune and inflammatory nature of the disease. These problems can include periodontal disease, mouth sores, and dry mouth.

If you live with lupus, it’s important to properly manage your oral health. This often involves regular dental check-ups, good oral hygiene practices, and, in some cases, coordination between dental and medical care to address specific oral manifestations.