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Living with Lupus Affects Oral Health

May is Lupus Awareness Month. Like many other systemic diseases, lupus can affect your mouth. About five million people worldwide suffer from this chronic condition, which can range from mild to life-threatening. In some cases, dentists have been among the first medical professionals to play a role in diagnosing the disease. 

Life with Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its healthy tissues, leading to damage of joints, organs, and skin. Over time, this process can cause inflammation, pain, and permanent damage. It affects more women than men, particularly those of child-bearing age. Those who have a family member with an autoimmune disease are at increased risk for lupus as well as other autoimmune diseases. 

Oftentimes, lupus is tricky to diagnosis since the symptoms can mimic many other conditions. While there is no cure for lupus, there are medications to treat symptoms and improve quality of life.

Here are common symptoms of lupus:


Blood clotting issues

“Butterfly rash” (across cheeks and nose)

Chest pain with deep breathing

Extreme Fatigue



Light sensitivity

Mouth and nose sores 

The Link Between Lupus and Oral Health

Oral diseases can cause bacteria to travel to the lungs and bloodstream leading to infection. Lupus is associated with chronic inflammation, so conditions such as periodontal (gum) disease is worrisome because it can exacerbate inflammation throughout the body and lead to serious complications. 

Many symptoms of systemic diseases affect the mouth and oral tissues. Oral sores or mouth ulcers are visible symptoms of lupus. They typically appear as red lesions surrounded by a white halo with lines radiating outward. At first appearance, these sores may raise a red flag for oral cancer. With thorough testing, certain conditions can be ruled out while others can be narrowed down. 

Xerostomia (dry mouth) is a common symptom of autoimmune diseases, and the medications used to manage lupus may also be a contributing factor. Additionally, some of the strong medications can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing infections and oral cancer. 

Those who suffer from lupus and other autoimmune diseases are at risk for Sjogren’s Syndrome, which affects the lacrimal glands in the eyes and salivary glands in the mouth. Oral symptoms include burning, cracked lips, dry tongue, gingivitis, swelling of salivary glands, and tooth decay. 

Keeping Your Mouth Healthy

Proper oral hygiene such a regular brushing and flossing can make a big difference for those suffering from systemic conditions. It’s also important to inform your dentist of any health problems such as lupus so that you will receive the best dental care catered to your medical needs. 

by Whitney In Oral Health

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