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Caring for Your Mouth When You Have Lupus

Lupus is an immune system disease that can affect many parts of the body, including the mouth. If you have lupus, there are things you can do to keep your mouth healthy.

Understanding Lupus

Lupus causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue in the body. Most people with lupus are women. There are many signs and symptoms of lupus, including:

  • Joint pain

  • Skin rashes

  • Mouth sores, often on the roof of the mouth

  • Swollen glands

  • Fatigue

Oral Complications

Lupus can affect your salivary glands and cause dry mouth. Dry mouth can increase the risk of developing cavities and other infections. If you have lupus, be sure to tell your dentist. Together, you can keep your mouth healthy.

Risks of Medication

People with lupus may take medicine that can increase their risk for some oral health problems. For example, drugs that suppress the immune system can raise the risk for oral cancer.

White or red patches in the mouth can also be a sign of thrush, another side effect of lupus medicines. These patches, caused by a fungal infection, can cause burning and trouble swallowing. Thrush can be controlled with medication. Your dentist can check for signs of oral cancer and thrush, such as red or white patches inside the cheeks or on the tongue. Contact your dentist if you find red or white patches in your mouth.

“What is Lupus?” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, October 2009. www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Lupus/lupus_ff.asp. Accessed 2013.

“Handout on Health: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, May 2013. www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Lupus/default.asp. Accessed 2013.

“Sjögren's Syndrome and Lupus.” Lupus Foundation of America. http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_aboutaffects.aspx?articleid=104&zoneid=17. Accessed 2013.

“Dry Mouth.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, October 2012. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/DryMouth/DryMouth.htm. Accessed 2013.

Author: Ramos, Laura