doctor examining patient's jaw

Autoimmune Disease: Effects on Your Dental Health

Team Technology

Do you have an autoimmune disease? Some examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis. These diseases are on the rise, as more than 7 percent of the American population suffer from some type of autoimmune disease. As medical experts learn more about these diseases, it is becoming apparent that autoimmune disease can affect your dental health.

What types of effects does autoimmune disease have on your dental health? Here are a few examples.

Accelerated Tooth Decay

We are all susceptible to tooth decay and cavities, but those with autoimmune diseases are at an increased risk. Many autoimmune diseases cause dry mouth, which means there is a decreased amount of saliva present. Saliva is needed to properly rinse the teeth and control the bacteria population in the mouth. If saliva levels are low, bacteria may become overpopulated and cause cavities.

Gum Disease

A decrease in saliva due to an autoimmune disorder may also be a contributing factor for gum disease. Without sufficient saliva to lubricate the soft tissues of the mouth, the gums may dry out and become more susceptible to bacterial infection, which is gum disease. The buildup of plaque on the teeth also feeds the bacteria and increases the chances of developing gum disease. Autoimmune disorders also lower the body’s defense system against infections, so gum disease is more difficult to stop once it gets started.

Studies have also shown a correlation between diabetes and gum disease, which may be due to the increased sugar in the saliva that breeds bacteria in the mouth. Gum disease can also make it more difficult for diabetic patients to manage their blood sugar levels.

TMJ Disorder

Some autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, affect the joints. TMJ, which stands for the temporomandibular joint, is the place where the lower jaw attaches to the skull. This hinge joint can become inflamed, causing pain and restricted movement. Rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation and swelling in the joints, can cause or exacerbate this condition. TMJ disorder can make it difficult to chew, brush and floss your teeth, and receive necessary dental care and cleanings.

Ulcers in the Mouth

Mouth sores, called ulcers, can develop on the soft tissues of the mouth like the inside of the cheeks and tongue. Autoimmune diseases like lupus and Crohn's disease can cause these sores to develop more abundantly. Ulcers in the mouth can make it painful to eat and brush your teeth. When you are unable to eat a healthy diet and take care of your teeth, you are more likely to develop cavities.

Damage to Blood Vessels and Nerves

Autoimmune diseases often cause damage to the blood vessels and nerves in the body, which includes those in the mouth. When blood vessels in the gums are damaged, there is an increased risk of gum disease. The support structure for the teeth can also start to deteriorate as a result. Nerve damage can mean that you are unable to feel pain that may indicate a dental problem, so you may not be aware that anything is wrong until the problem has progressed.

Learn More About Autoimmune Disease and Dental Health

Now that you know some of the ways your autoimmune disease can affect your dental health, you should be even more aware of how important it is to see your dentist regularly. Keeping up with routine dental cleanings and exams can prevent many of the above issues. If you have an autoimmune disease, it may be in your best interest to see the dentist more often than the typical schedule of every 6 months. Quarterly cleanings may be necessary to prevent cavities and gum disease. Make sure your dentist is aware of your other health issues so that they can provide you with the best possible dental care.

Dental Associates of Farmington, CT provides preventive dental care services to help you maintain your dental health. Call 860-677-8666 today to schedule a consultation or request an appointment. We look forward to providing you with quality dental care.