March 4, 2021
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), scientists know about more than 80 different autoimmune diseases. Even if you are not a scientific researcher, you probably are familiar with some of these chronic conditions. For instance, arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis are all autoimmune diseases. What you may not realize, however, is how some autoimmune disorders can negatively impact your oral health. Keep reading below to learn more.
What Is an Autoimmune Disease?
Your immune system is designed to protect you from getting sick by fighting back against bacteria and viruses. When germs enter the body, the immune system usually kicks into gear and attacks the foreign cells. However, sometimes people’s immune systems misfire and attack healthy cells and tissues instead. This can lead to autoimmune diseases.
What Autoimmune Disease Affects Saliva?
Saliva plays an important role in building and maintaining the soft and hard tissues in your mouth. It also helps protect against oral decay and infections by washing away food and debris from your teeth and gums. Sjögren’s syndrome is an inflammatory disease that often affects the ability to produce saliva. Common symptoms include difficulty swallowing and dry mouth, which can lead to cavities, gum disease, and oral yeast infections. According to the American College of Rheumatology, as many as 3 million adults have Sjögren’s syndrome in the U.S., with women ten times more likely to get the disease than men.
What Autoimmune Diseases Affect the Mouth?
There are various autoimmune diseases that affect the mouth, including:
- Crohn’s disease – Although primarily known as an intestinal disease, as many as 29% of people with Crohn’s have it in their mouth. Symptoms include mouth ulcers and swelling of the gums and lips, which can make it difficult to eat.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus – Commonly known as lupus, this disease damages various body parts, including skin, joints, and kidneys. Lupus mostly develops in young women and can cause fever, weight loss, a butterfly rash across the face, and mouth ulcers.
- Psoriasis – An autoimmune disease of the skin that develops in people in their 20’s or 30’s. Psoriasis most commonly affects the scalp, elbows, and knees, and scaly white spots are a common symptom. However, in rare cases, psoriasis can also affect the lips, gums, tongue, and cheek and cause redness, burning, bleeding, and difficulty chewing and swallowing food.
What Autoimmune Diseases Affect Swallowing?
Scleroderma is a group of rare diseases that can cause facial skin to become extremely tight, making it difficult to swallow. It occurs most commonly in women between the ages of 30 and 50. While there is no cure for scleroderma, there are a variety of treatments that can reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life of affected individuals.
Symptoms of some autoimmune diseases may first appear in the mouth. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to see your dentist every six months for a routine checkup. Your dentist may be able to spot developing issues in your mouth early on and alert you if you need medical attention.
About the Author
With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Julie Valentine understands well how general health issues can impact oral health. She delivers a complete range of dental services, including preventive checkups, with a caring and gentle touch at her Beverly Hills private practice. To learn about the impact of autoimmune diseases on oral health or to schedule an appointment, visit Dr. Valentine’s website or call 310-551-2955.
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