Dental Concerns and Lupus

by Gretchen Malik

Communication, self-examination and prevention are the keys to controlling dental problems for the lupus patient. Lupus patients have specific dental problems because of the disease process and the medications needed to control lupus symptoms.

Lupus patients should visit the dentist at regular intervals, usually every two to six months, and inform him about current and past medical history. Your dentist should also be supplied with a complete list of medications, the dosage and any side effects. Also keep your physician aware of any dental problems and any proposed treatment.

Get into the habit of regular self-examination of your mouth. Periodontal disease, a group of inflammatory conditions that affect the gums (gingiva) and supporting bone around each tooth, causes the greatest amount of tooth loss in adults and affects almost everyone.   The most common periodontal disorders are gingivitis (inflammation of the gingiva or gums) and periodontitis (inflammation affecting the bone under the gingiva) does not cause pain and may not give warning until significant tissue breakdown has occurred. However, the presence of any of the following signs and symptoms signs and symptoms of periodontal disease can be detected with self-examination:

1. Bleeding gums: Gingiva bleeds on eating or brushing teeth, or bleeds without any obvious cause.

2. Swollen gums: Enlarged gingiva is not bound tightly around each tooth.

3. Red Gums: Gingiva is red in color. Dark colored gingiva due to naturally occurring melanin (the substance which colors the gums) is not an indication of inflammation.

4. Sensitive gums: Gingiva that is painful to brushing. Untreated gingivitis can progress into the tissues under the gingiva and cause the bone that supports the teeth to become weakened and resorb.

Periodontitis, a form of dental disease, is marked by bone loss and will eventually lead to loosening or loss of teeth. It is usually painless and may have the same signs and symptoms as gingivitis. If any signs or symptoms of gingivitis or periodontitis are noted, you should tell his/her dentist. Your dentist can accurately diagnose and treat periodontat disease.

Prevention is the best treatment for dental disease. The only way to prevent periodontal disease is by effective tooth brushing techniques. Tooth brushing must clean all five surfaces of each tooth. The most critical area of the tooth to clean is immediately adjacent or next to the gingiva or gums. Since a toothbrush cannot clean the area between the teeth, dental floss, dental tape, rubber tips, special brushes and stimulators are used to remove the plaque that is deposited between teeth. It should take approximately three minutes to brush your teeth thoroughly. Plaque that causes dental cavities and periodontal disease accumulates on all tooth surfaces and must be removed daily. Any areas of gingival sensitivity, tooth sensitivity, or gingival bleeding require effective brushing or the sensitivity and bleeding will get worse. If it hurts or if it bleeds, it should be brushed harder.

Everyone with lupus should check the inside of their mouths regularly for any red or irritated areas. If such areas are noticed, these should be brought to the attention of the physician and dentist. Approximately 25% of lupus patients have these kinds of oral problems, which are usually accompanied by a skin irritation or facial rash. Oral problems in lupus are also found on the lips and on the tissue inside the cheeks. If you have an active oral problems do not use denture powder or denture paste to hold in removable dentures. If toothpaste irritates the mouth, baking soda and water should be substituted for it.

You can learn to keep dental problems under control with preventive maintenance.

© Gretchen Malik

Gretchen Malik is the author of "Healthy Women - A Self-Help Guide for Women".