4 Ways Autoimmune Diseases Can Affect Your Teeth & Gums

13 October 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Articles


Many people with autoimmune diseases notice they often need frequent dental procedures, especially if their disease is poorly controlled. There are several reasons the inflammatory processes affect your teeth and gums and your options for dental procedures.

Decreased Saliva

When you have an autoimmune disease, it is common to develop additional autoimmune diseases over the years. One autoimmune disease that directly affects the salivary glands is Sjogren's syndrome. Even if you do not have Sjogren's, some of the medications you take to manage your autoimmune disease, such as narcotic pain medications, can lead to decreased saliva production. Saliva is important to reduce decay-causing bacteria in your mouth and maintain pH balance.

Less saliva your mouth make each day means bacteria can have more opportunities to adversely affect your teeth. Decreased saliva also makes you more vulnerable to oral yeast infections. Any abrasions in your mouth can take longer to heal and are more likely to become infected. This combined with the immunosuppressive effects of some medications further increases your risk of oral infections and slow healing times.

Bone Demineralization

Chronic systemic inflammation can cause demineralization of your bone. The process occurs independent of the amount of nutrients you intake each day. If the underlying inflammatory processes are not controlled, it does not matter if you take supplements or have a well-balanced diet. The only way to help stop demineralization of bone throughout your body is to find an effective treatment for your disease.

If demineralization of bone occurs in your jaw, this can cause instability in your teeth and premature loss of your teeth. The same inflammatory processes you might experience in your joints that cause destruction of soft tissues and supporting structures and leading to instability and deformities, can have similar effects in your mouth.

Similarly, gum disease itself is a type of chronic inflammation. If you already have systemic inflammation, you are at an increased risk of developing gum disease. Since you may experience a quick onset on dental problems, your gums disease may be especially aggressive and harder to treat. Conventional treatments, such as cleanings and deep cleanings, may need to be performed more frequently to keep gum disease at bay.

Poor Oral Care

In some cases, autoimmune diseases can affect your ability to adequately care for yourself, which includes oral care. If you experience difficulties with range of motion, dexterity or significant fatigue, you will need to find easier ways to continue your oral care regimen. Look for mouthwashes that are designed to provide additional dental care benefits beyond fresh breath. Some mouthwashes help loosen food particles and plaque, which can make brushing more effective with less work. Consider purchasing a water pick if traditional floss is difficult to maneuver. Use your mouthwash and water pick before brushing to make the job easier.

Fewer Dental Reconstruction Options

Since medications can make you more vulnerable to infection and significant dental work, implants can make inflammatory processes worse and you may thus have fewer reconstructive dental options. Additionally, the demineralization of your bone can make it unlikely your jaw will support an implant. Ideally, you should work on saving as many of your natural teeth as possible by catching cavities in their early stages. Any fillings should be closely monitored for easy recurrence of decay around the filling.

Dental crowns are useful for restoring significantly damaged teeth, however, you may be at an increased risk of further decay under your crown. Many people with autoimmune diseases, who have a difficult time keeping their disease under control, elect to have dentures when they have many bad teeth. The process of extracting many badly damaged teeth and being fitted for dentures often easier and less expensive than constantly repairing the same teeth multiple times. Dentures are also less likely to contribute to an increased immune response than having many restorative procedures.

The effects of autoimmune diseases, can easily extend to your teeth and gums. The best way to combat the effects on your mouth are to comply with your treatment regimen to reduce inflammation and slow destruction. Furthermore, consult with your dentist to determine the best check-up schedule for your specific needs and to catch problems when they are easier to treat.