Another 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—which are 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. He or she should in turn contact your rheumatologist to get a history of your condition and, if necessary, some 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. These sorts of things are important to know since they can change the way 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 for this: 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 wet the way it should be,
- 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!