The results of a recent study highlight how periodontal disease and oral hygiene can impact the health of patients with lupus. The research, which was published in the Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology journal, is titled “Antibodies to periodontogenic bacteria are associated with higher disease activity in lupus patients.”
An estimated 1.5 million people in the United States have the chronic autoimmune disease, lupus. It takes an average of six years from the time a person experiences symptoms until they are officially diagnosed. Around 16,000 people are diagnosed with lupus each year.
Lupus starts to develops when the body’s immune system cannot tell the difference between good and bad bacteria. As a result, it produces antibodies to attack good cells and healthy tissue instead of foreign viruses or bacteria. The disease is also chronic; while some people may have lupus for a couple of weeks, others have it for the rest of their life.
Lupus has a wide range of symptoms which can appear in many areas of the body. The most common symptoms include fevers, joint pain, skin rashes, and fatigue. Hair loss, sensitivity to light, chest pain and ulcers on the nose or mouth are also possible symptoms that someone has lupus. The person may also experience blood clots, headaches, anemia and swelling around the limbs or eyes. The symptoms can range from very mild to severe.
How Periodontal Disease Can Impact the Health of Patients With Lupus
The study to examine how periodontal bacteria affects patients diagnosed with lupus was orchestrated by Dr. Umesh Deshmukh and Dr. Harini Bagavant. The husband and wife research team conducted the experiment at The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and received funding from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.
Both doctors have been researching oral bacteria and its impact on certain diseases at The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation since 2013. For this experiment, they decided to study the effect of oral health on lupus by comparing how certain pathogenic periodontal bacteria can cause the disease to be more or less active.
The study shows a correlation between a patient’s periodontal disease and the activity of the autoimmune disease. Dr. Deshmukh and Dr. Bagavant studied the evidence and discovered that patients who take better care of their oral health might experience less lupus activity. Meanwhile, patients who have periodontal disease experience higher lupus activity. Based on their findings, Dr. Deshmukh and Dr. Bagavant assert that simple habits like brushing twice per day and cleaning interdentally every day could give patients the power to improve their health in addition to taking prescription drugs.
Dr. Deshmukh and Dr. Bagavant believe their groundbreaking research is further proof how poor dental hygiene can have far-reaching consequences which can affect a person’s health. For example, previous studies show it can contribute to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other types of illnesses.
They recommend that dentists and dental hygienists who provide services to patients with lupus should educate on why their oral health is so important as it relates to their autoimmune disease. Medical professionals can educate patients on why proper oral health care and regular dental appointments are imperative to help them fight their disease.
Overall, Dr. Deshmukh and Dr. Bagavant said it makes sense that a proper dental treatment plan is used in conjunction with traditional therapies for lupus. The husband and wife team would like to conduct new studies in the future which would investigate whether good dental hygiene could prevent lupus and other diseases. They also hope that doctors continue to look for additional ways to detect serious illnesses beforehand.