September 15, 2008

Lupus Living: Strong Teeth

Osteoporosis is a major health concern for millions of Americans, both women and men. For people living with lupus, the risk of bone loss and fractures due to bone loss is even greater because of lupus medications like corticosteroids, and because of the disease itself.

Caring for your bones through good nutrition, exercise, calcium / vitamin D supplements, and bone-growth medication is important if you’re at risk for bone loss. But there is one other part of your body that could be at risk: your teeth.

Besides depleting the calcium needed to keep teeth healthy, medications used to treat lupus can also trigger osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), a rare condition that causes bone tissue to deteriorate and the jawbone to be exposed. However, catching symptoms of ONJ early can help prevent most pain and any serious loss or destruction of the jawbone. Here’s what to look for:
  • Toothache
  • Jaw pain
  • Exposed bone
  • Loose teeth
  • Recurrent soft-tissue infections
  • Numbness or feeling of heaviness in the jaw
If you’re taking an oral bisphosphonate, get regular dental checkups and alert your dentist to this and all other medications you’re taking. Be sure to tell your dentist about bleeding gums or any unusual feeling in your teeth. Although there is no cure for ONJ, it’s possible to experience some healing in your teeth and jaw with good oral care, use of antibiotics, and daily mouth rinses with antibiotic solutions.

Taken from the Fall 2008 issue of Lupus Now magazine

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