older man looking in bathroom mirror using mouthwash

Autoimmune Disease: Effects on Your Dental Health


Autoimmune disease is a blanket term for a variety of medical conditions caused by immune system disorders. The immune system is designed to defend the body against illness and outside contaminants, which it does when it is working properly. But sometimes the immune system attacks the body, causing a variety of health issues. 

One of the many health concerns with autoimmune disease is dental health. There are a variety of dental health concerns that stem from autoimmune diseases. Here are the symptoms to watch out for.

Dry Mouth

One of the most common oral symptoms of autoimmune disease is dry mouth. Sometimes the medications you may take to treat your autoimmune disease are also at fault for making your mouth dry. Lack of saliva or insufficient saliva can cause a variety of dental issues from an increased chance of decay to gum disease. Saliva helps to wash food and bacteria off of your teeth, and when that doesn’t happen due to a lack of saliva, it can cause plaque to form. Plaque that lingers on your teeth for too long can cause cavities and gum disease. It also hardens into tartar and becomes more difficult to remove, which worsens the risk. 

An autoimmune disease that is known for causing dry mouth symptoms is Sjögren’s syndrome, which also causes dry eyes and dryness in the mucous membranes.

Gum Disease

There are a few different autoimmune diseases that can increase the risk of gum disease. Gum disease is a bacterial infection of the gums that is caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth along the gum line. And since autoimmune diseases suppress the immune system, the body is more susceptible to infection and has a much more difficult time fighting infection. 

Diabetes is considered to be an autoimmune disease, and it has also been linked to gum disease. Other diseases that could lead to an increased risk of gum disease are lupus, scleroderma, Crohn’s disease, and others. 

Mouth Lesions

Another common symptom of autoimmune diseases is the development of mouth lesions, otherwise known as mouth ulcers. Lesions are sores that occur in the mucous membranes, like the mouth. They can be quite painful, making it difficult to eat and even brush your teeth. Being unable to take proper care of your teeth can lead to serious dental issues like cavities and even more serious tooth decay. 

Mouth lesions are common with diseases such as lupus, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, and more. 

How Can Your Dentist Help?

There are many ways your dentist can help you maintain your dental health even with an autoimmune disease present. 

  • Regular dental cleanings and exams. The most important thing to do is make sure you see your dentist every 6 months to have your teeth cleaned and examined. This prevents plaque buildup on your teeth that can cause cavities gum disease. Regular oral examinations will also alert your dentist to any oral health issues like mouth lesions. 
  • Prescription mouthwash. If you have dry mouth or lesions, there are prescription mouthwashes that can clear up the mouth sores as well as some that can lubricate your mouth and help you to create more saliva. 
  • Prescription medications. There are various medications that can be prescribed to help with many of these symptoms. Your dentist or your doctor can usually write you prescriptions to these to help curb the symptoms of your autoimmune disease. 
  • Scaling and root planing. If you suffer from gum disease, scaling helps to remove hardened tartar and calculus from your teeth and below the gum line that can lead to gum disease. Root planing smooths out the surface of the root portion of your tooth below the gum line so that there are no gaps between your teeth and gums for bacteria to get in and cause infection. 

Emerson Dental Can Help You Maintain Your Oral Health

An autoimmune disorder can cause a variety of symptoms, some of which may affect your dental and oral health. Emerson Dental can help you maintain your oral health despite the effects and symptoms of your autoimmune disease. We want to help you keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy in every way we can. 

Call (978) 399-0017 today to schedule an appointment at our Westford office or (781) 394-9213 for our Bedford office.  We look forward to helping you maintain your oral health.