Systemic Diseases and Your Mouth

While most people know that poor oral hygiene can cause gingivitis and cavities, many are unaware that systemic diseases can also have an effect on the oral cavity.

While oral manifestations of chronic illness or systemic diseases typically occur with poorly managed or long-standing illnesses, they can develop early on in the progression of diseases and may also occur when illnesses are well-managed. Here are some systemic diseases that can affect your mouth and what you can do about them.

Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that can cause dry eyes and a dry mouth, as well as painful and swollen salivary glands. According to the Mayo Clinic, the causes of Sjogren's syndrome are not fully understood; however, an infection may trigger this autoimmune disorder.

Sjogren's syndrome is more common in women, but it can also occur in men. When your salivary glands fail to produce enough saliva to wash away infection-causing oral bacteria, you may be at a higher risk for gum disease and cavities.

In addition, Sjogren's syndrome can also raise your risk for oral yeast or fungal infections such as candida, or thrush, which can cause white patches to develop inside your mouth. Oral fungal infections can also cause burning sensations inside your mouth, difficulty swallowing, and a bad taste inside your mouth.

Your dentist can prescribe an oral antifungal medication to treat your thrush infection, which should resolve in a couple weeks or so. If you have Sjogren's syndrome, work with both your primary physician and your dentist. When your autoimmune disorder is well-managed by your physician, you may be less likely to develop oral problems related to dry mouth or thrush infections.


Diabetes is another systemic medical condition that can cause oral problems. It can raise your risk for periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, which can cause excessive plaque buildup on your teeth, bleeding and inflamed gums, pain when eating, gum recession, and tooth loss.

If you don’t manage your diabetes well, your risk for gum disease may be especially high. If you have periodontal disease as a result of high blood glucose levels, maintain a strict regimen of brushing and flossing and see your dentist on a regular basis for routine examinations and professional cleanings.

These interventions will help heal your gum tissue and reduce your risk for oral infections, however, you will still need to get your blood sugar levels under control by taking your prescribed medication, maintaining a healthy weight, managing your stress levels, and getting enough exercise.

Acid Reflux Disease

Acid Reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can cause heartburn, a dry cough, frequent throat clearing, feeling as though acid is rising up in your throat, and a bad taste inside your mouth. If you have acid reflux disease, you may be at risk for acid erosion, especially of your back molars.

Stomach acid is very irritating and can dissolve or weaken your tooth enamel, which may raise your risk for cavities. When your enamel thins as a result of acid erosion, bacteria can get inside your tooth, causing an infection or cavity.

After a reflux episode, rinse your mouth out with water to help dilute the acid so that it is less likely to cause enamel erosion. Also, if you have acid reflux, visit your dentist regularly so that he or she can closely monitor the condition of your dental enamel.

Management of acid reflux disease includes avoiding your trigger foods, not smoking, sleeping with the head of your bed elevated, taking antacids or acid blocking medications, and losing excess weight.

To learn more about how systemic diseases such as autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and acid reflux can affect your oral health, today.