Did you know that March is Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month?
Autoimmune diseases have a long prodromal period—years, sometimes decades, of pain, fatigue, brain fog, mental health issues, and other symptoms related to your oral health.
Our bodies rely on the immune system to protect us from infectious diseases and, for the most part, it does an excellent job of it. Sometimes, one’s immune system goes into overdrive and begins attacking the body itself. This is called an autoimmune disease. There are many types of autoimmune diseases, affecting different parts of the body and causing various symptoms. Some autoimmune diseases impact oral health too.
Here are the 4 oral issues that autoimmune diseases can cause.
1.Gingivitis and Gum Disease
Inflammation of the gums is linked to several autoimmune disorders, including lupus, Crohn’s disease, and scleroderma. Gingivitis is a condition in which gums are inflamed and red; it’s a precursor to gum disease. As gum disease (also known as periodontitis) progresses, patients can experience tenderness and bleeding, bad breath, discharge from the gums, and teeth that shift – feel loose, or even fall out. Gum disease is an infection. Since many treatments for autoimmune disease suppress the immune system, it can both leave you more vulnerable to getting gum disease and make it harder for your body to fight the infection.
Research suggests that patients with plaque and gum disease may be at higher risk of developing autoimmune disease in the future. As we learn more about the Root Cause and the connection between the mouth and the rest of the body, it’s a good reminder of just how important it is to take care of our oral health even during the Covid-19 pandemic.
One cause of dry mouth could be the medications you take. For patients with Sjögren’s syndrome, the second most common autoimmune disease, the body attacks the salivary glands, causing a decrease in saliva. Sjögren’s syndrome also causes dryness of the eyes and other body tissues, but the symptoms in the mouth can be particularly distressing, causing trouble swallowing, eating, speaking, and tasting. Dry mouth can also increase the risk of cavities because saliva dilutes and washes away bacteria and food debris throughout the day, so without it, plaque is more likely to form.
3.Temporomandibular Joint Pain
When an autoimmune disease attacks the joints, like in rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) may be affected. This can cause TMJ disorder, also known as TMD. The TMJ acts as a hinge that allows the jaw to open and close; when this joint is compromised, it can cause headaches, pain when eating, and popping and clicking noises.
Lupus, Crohn’s disease, and other autoimmune diseases may also cause oral ulcers during flares. Ulcers can appear on the cheeks, tongue, and insides of the lips. You may have only a few sores or dozens. Sometimes, these oral ulcers are one of the first symptoms patients experience of an autoimmune disease.
Learn More About Autoimmune Disease and Oral Health
If you have an autoimmune disease, it’s essential to get the oral care you need. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Gashinsky and our Holistic Team of oral health professionals. Our practice provides holistic dental treatment such as ozone therapy and other minimally invasive procedures that align with the whole body. Call today at 973-718-5104.