Does Lyme Disease Make Your Teeth Fall Out?
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Does Lyme Disease Make Your Teeth Fall Out?

March 26, 2024

Lyme Disease is a significant public health concern and there is a growing interest to understand this complex disease with multiple manifestations. There has been a resurgence in the cases of Lyme Disease in recent years as weather changes and other factors have led to an expansion in the tick population, with it spreading to new areas. 

People are also concerned about whether Lyme Disease can make teeth fall out, as it has a complex connection with our oral health. The bacteria behind this disease are Borrelia burgdorferi. These spiral-shaped organisms are called spirochetes and are commensals, which means that they can survive in the host without producing symptoms. This characteristic can make diagnosis and treatment even more complex for Lyme disease.

If you suspect you have Lyme Disease, consult a healthcare professional at the earliest because, with early diagnosis, this disease is completely curable with a course of antibiotics. Early diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease will prevent complications.

Through this blog, you will understand what Lyme disease is, how it impacts our health, and the role between Lyme Disease and dental health. You will be able to recognize concerns and get dental treatment at the earliest because of the simplified information.

Lyme disease, its transmission, and common symptoms

Lyme Disease is amongst the most common vector-borne diseases in the United States and some other countries.

It is transmitted by the bite of infected black-legged ticks, which spread the bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. These ticks pick up these bacteria from small animals like deer and mice. When ticks bite humans to feed, they transmit these disease-causing bacteria.

The disease progresses in stages, and this is a multisystem inflammatory disease. It can impact the heart, nerves, joints, etc, if not treated early. 

The early stage will show localized symptoms, and bull’s eye rash can be seen in areas like the groin, axilla, or belt line. This appears within 3 to 30 days after the bite. Everyone may not get a rash. Flu-like symptoms along with headache may be seen in the early stages in the absence of a rash. Lymph nodes may be swollen.

When not treated, an early disseminated phase will occur weeks to months after the infection. One may have multiple skin rashes, severe headaches, facial paralysis, arthritis, body aches, and heart palpitations.

Meningitis, neurological issues, and cognitive decline or difficulty may be seen in the late disseminated phase.

Lyme Disease and Its Potential Impact on Overall Health

These bacteria do not produce toxins or cause direct damage to the tissues. The local inflammation which results is a consequence of the host response mechanism. Most people can be fully cured, and the disease is rarely fatal.

Symptoms seen in the early stage are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Malaise
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Stiff neck
  • Erythema migrans or bull’s eye rash

Late symptoms include:

  • Pain along a nerve
  • Facial nerve palsy
  • Severe headache
  • Meningitis
  • Arthritis
  • Cardiac problems like palpitations, dizziness
  • Cognitive issues
  • Polyneuropathy

People who get treated in the early stages need a course of antibiotics and are generally fully cured.

Some people, especially those who receive treatment later, will have some lingering symptoms. This is called Post-treatment Lyme Disease syndrome, and it will resolve over the next few months for most people. 

Importance of Dental Health and Its Role in Overall Well-being

Good dental health is the cornerstone for overall well-being. A healthy set of teeth and a strong jawbone facilitate essential functions of speaking properly and eating well, which involves biting and chewing. At the same time, it also facilitates the absorption of nutrition and plays a key role in immune function. 

Psychologically, a healthy and bright smile fosters self-confidence. It allows people to interact well socially. It is considered important for psychological well-being. 

On the other hand, bad oral health and poor habits can cause a battery of detrimental effects. It can lead to localized infections like dental decay, cavities, periodontitis, abscesses, etc. Systemic health issues can arise, like increased risk of cardiovascular diseases because of bacterial spread, inflammation, poor blood sugar control due to inflammation, increased risk of respiratory infections, complications during pregnancy, etc. Pain due to dental problems makes it difficult to eat nutritious foods.

These are potential complications, and risk varies based on different factors. Oral health and general health are linked intricately, and both impact each other.

Exploring the Link Between Lyme Disease and Dental Health

There is a complex link between Lyme Disease and oral health. The spirochetes, Borrelia burgdorferi, have also been found in the mouth. This can cause local issues and the other symptoms of this disease impact oral health indirectly.

As Lyme Disease can weaken the immune system, it can make it difficult for the patient to fight off other bacteria which cause cavities and gum disease. 

Some theories hint at the possibility that bacteria which cause Lyme Disease can burrow into gum tissues, and then cause infection and inflammation there. This causes chronic periodontitis. 

Some studies have shown that these bacteria can be present in root canal-treated teeth as blood supply is compromised in these teeth. They live inside the teeth rather than on the outside. 

Let us see how symptoms of Lyme Disease impact our oral and dental health. 

Impact of Lyme Disease on Tooth Health

Everyone is concerned about whether Lyme Disease can make teeth fall out. We will see how different symptoms of Lyme Disease impact dental health.

  • Dry mouth is a common symptom of this disease. This decreases saliva production, which increases the risk of cavities and gum disease. This is because saliva washes away food particles and bacteria. It also neutralizes acids and has antimicrobial properties.
  • Pain and inflammation can be a restricting factor in maintaining good oral hygiene and eating well.
  • This disease causes facial pain, which can be mistaken for TMJ dysfunction. This can make treatment difficult due to misdiagnosis.
  • It can also cause toothaches and tooth sensitivity.
  • It can cause periodontitis, pulpitis, and even changes in taste.
  • Chronic periodontitis can lead to gum recession, tissue damage, and bleeding.

Addressing Concerns About Tooth Loss

As Lyme Disease can cause chronic gum inflammation leading to periodontitis, it can damage the tissue supporting the teeth. 

Root canal-treated teeth should be tested for the presence of these spirochetes if one is suspected of having Lyme Disease to maintain a healthy oral environment. Prolonged exposure to this infection can cause loose teeth.

While acidic oral pH supports the growth of this bacteria, the bacteria themselves can cause acidic oral pH. This can damage enamel. 

As the disease weakens the immune system, making it difficult to fight infections, cavities and gum disease can rapidly progress, increasing the risk of tooth loss.

Pain and general symptoms of Lyme Disease make it difficult for people to take care of their oral health and follow a proper routine. This can make it difficult to prevent cavities and other dental problems. 

As you can see, different problems associated with Lyme Disease can make teeth fall out. 

Preventive Strategies for Dental Health If You Have Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease can directly and indirectly impact dental and oral health. Prioritizing oral health when you have Lyme Disease to prevent tooth loss and other complications is really important. 

These things can help you:

  • Maintain a consistent routine for your oral hygiene. It would help if you never forgot to brush twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and fluoridated toothbrush. Clean thoroughly by gently scraping your tongue and flossing. 
  • Restrict your intake of both acidic and high-sugar foods and drinks because these foods can promote bacterial growth.
  • Rinse after your meals to clear food particles.
  • You can use a mouthwash suggested by your dentist to help with symptoms of Lyme disease. It should be used along with brushing and flossing instead of a replacement. 
  • Hydration is important because dehydration can decrease saliva production. Dry mouth is already a side effect of this disease. Dehydration can worsen it. 
  • You can also ask the dentist or doctor for artificial saliva products or use sugar-free lozenges to manage dry mouth.
  • Oil pulling may help control the infection while keeping the oral cavity moist.
  • Go for regular dental checkups and freely communicate with your dentist about your concerns and medical history.

Seeking Professional Dental Care

It is important to seek professional dental care from an experienced dentist, as they can check your mouth for indications of Lyme Disease. Your dentist needs to be familiar with the latest health updates and issues. 

Always inform your dentist if you have or suspect you have Lyme Disease. A skilled dentist can test or send samples from root canal-treated teeth for the presence of spirochetes. They will repeat the test after treatment to ensure everything is sterilized. 

Your dentist will likely postpone treatment like tooth extraction to avoid triggering flare-ups. 

An experienced dentist can diagnose if you have dental issues or nonspecific orofacial pain, TMJ, and no specific dental issue. They can then refer you to a physician for diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease.

A Lyme-literate dentist will be able to take alternative approaches for dental care in case of active infection. They will also be able to guide you in maintaining oral health in such cases. 

At Kirkland Premier Dentistry, our dentists will work with you to develop a personalized plan to suit your unique needs. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions. Share your medical history freely, as it allows us to take a comprehensive approach and give you the best treatment.

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