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Lupus and Dental Implants

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People with lupus, an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, often face unique challenges related to their oral health.  

Mouth ulcers, dry mouth (xerostomia), and gum inflammation (gingivitis) are common issues for people living with Lupus. Mouth ulcers, typically caused by an overactive immune system and/or medications used to treat lupus, can be quite painful, affecting the ability to eat and speak. Dry mouth occurs because lupus can affect glands that produce saliva, which plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay by washing away food particles and neutralizing harmful acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. Additionally, the immune system’s erratic behavior can contribute to periodontal disease, a severe form of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss if untreated. Talk to your dentist and doctor about ways to maintain oral health. 

These issues, and other lupus-related oral health concerns require special attention during dental exams and treatments such as dental implant procedures. Dentists know how to best manage Lupus issues specific to each patient. The information below is a general overview of the impacts Lupus can have on various aspects of dental health. 

Dental implants and lupus 

Getting dental implants can be a challenge for people with lupus, for several reasons: 

Immune system impact 

Lupus, and some of the medications used to manage it such as immunosuppressants and corticosteroids, compromise the immune system which increases susceptibility to infections. Dental implant procedures, like any surgery, involves invasive procedures that carry infection risks. 

Reduced bone density 

Lupus and its treatments, particularly long-term use of corticosteroids, can lead to decreased bone density and strength, a condition known as osteoporosis. Since dental implants require a strong bone foundation for successful integration and stability, compromised bone health may make implant surgery less viable or necessitate additional procedures, such as bone grafts, to reinforce the jawbone. 

Slower healing 

Additionally, healing might be slowed or impaired due to both the disease and its treatments, affecting how well the implant integrates with the jawbone, a process known as osseointegration. This is critical for the long-term success of the implant. 

Given these factors, it is crucial for people living with lupus who are considering dental implants to have a thorough evaluation by both their medical doctor and their dentist. This helps ensure that any potential risks are carefully weighed against the benefits, and if proceeding with implants is deemed appropriate, extra precautions can be planned to minimize complications. This might include timing the implant surgery during periods of lupus remission and ensuring meticulous post-surgical care to promote healing and prevent infections. 

How do lupus medications impact dental health? 

Corticosteroids, a common treatment for lupus, can lead to an increased risk of oral infections, slower healing, and even bone loss in the jaw, a condition known as osteonecrosis. Immunosuppressants, which help manage lupus by dampening the immune response, can also increase the susceptibility to oral infections and delay healing after dental procedures. It is crucial for dental professionals to be fully aware of a patient’s medication regimen to appropriately plan and execute dental treatments. 

How people with lupus can protect their dental health 

Maintaining dental health requires proactive steps, especially for those with lupus. Patients should practice stringent oral hygiene routines, including brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily to reduce the risk of dental problems. Regular dental checkups are crucial, and these should be coordinated with the patient’s rheumatologist to ensure overall health management is aligned.  

Using a high-fluoride mouthwash or custom fluoride trays can be beneficial, especially for those with dry mouth, to help prevent tooth decay. Staying hydrated and using saliva substitutes can also alleviate the discomfort of dry mouth. And do be careful about the dental products you use. Unless your dentist advises otherwise, choose non-abrasive toothpaste and soft toothbrushes to avoid irritating your gums. At-home teeth whitening products are typically something to avoid as well, ask your dentist about in-office whitening procedures.  

Your dentist might recommend sealants, a preventive dental treatment that involves applying a plastic resin to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars and premolars) to protect them from decay by sealing out plaque and food. This treatment is often recommended for children but can provide an extra layer of protection for adults with lupus. As noted above, dry mouth is common with lupus and reduced saliva production makes teeth more vulnerable to decay. 

Additionally, managing common lupus symptoms like mouth ulcers and dry mouth is another area where dentists can provide significant relief. They might prescribe topical treatments for ulcers or recommend saliva substitutes and hydration strategies to alleviate the discomfort of dry mouth. Collaboration with rheumatologists and other healthcare providers is essential to align dental care with overall medical management, ensuring that treatment plans are safe and effective, particularly when it comes to avoiding drug interactions.  

Managing the cost of dental care 

If you’re living with lupus, you may have to manage the costs of frequent dental checkups and treatments to keep your mouth and teeth as healthy as possible. To help make this more affordable, consider joining a dental savings plan, a trusted alternative to traditional dental insurance. Plan members report saving an average of 50%* on their dental care.    

See how much you can save with a dental savings plan.

Use our calculator below >

Unlike dental insurance, with a dental savings plan you don’t have to worry about deductibles, annual spending limits or waiting before you qualify for reduced rates. You can use your plan within 1-3 business days of joining to save on virtually all dental care, from checkups to root canals, crowns, bridges and dentures – many plans even include discounts on treatments like dental implants and cosmetic services that insurance rarely covers.  

There are plans that fit every dental care need and budget. The quickest way to find the perfect dental plan for your needs is with our online dental plan finder — just answer a few questions and you’ll receive a personalized plan recommendation in minutes. Want a quick peek at how much you can save on your dental care right now? Use our calculator below. 

*Discount Health Program consumer and provider surveys indicate average savings of 50%. Savings may vary by provider, location, and plan.   

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