Link between oral health and eczema

Research shows eczema may be linked to gingivitis, toothache, tooth decay and infection. The exact link is unclear, but inflammatory processes, shared developmental pathways, and bacterial exposure may play a role.

Eczema is a broad term for a group of inflammatory skin conditions with similar core symptoms of itching, discoloration, and irritation. Approximately 31 million people in the United States have some form of eczema. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis.

Other conditions that occur at the same time as eczema are called comorbidities or eczema-related conditions. While cardiovascular, ocular, and certain mental health conditions are considered comorbidities of eczema, some studies suggest that oral health problems may also occur at higher rates.

This article explores the connection between eczema and oral health and explores ways to care for your oral health while treating eczema.

The relationship between eczema and oral health is not fully understood.

An inflammatory skin condition, eczema can occur anywhere on the body's surface, including around the mouth and on the lips.

This type of eczema, called perioral dermatitis or perioral dermatitis, causes inflamed, dry, and flaky skin and is a direct way that eczema affects oral health.

Dr. Amy Huang, a board-certified dermatologist from Manhattan, New York, explains that eczema can also have other, less direct effects on oral health.

For example, people with eczema have Higher risk of infection and allergic conditions, which often means they are taking medications that can cause adverse oral side effects.

“People with eczema sometimes take oral antibiotics, which can lead to oral yeast infections [in the mouth]Huang said. “Patients with eczema may also suffer from asthma, and many people with asthma rely on steroid inhalers, which can also lead to oral yeast infections.”

However, the connection between eczema and oral health extends beyond dry lips and secondary infections. It seems to work both ways, meaning oral health affects eczema just as eczema affects oral health.

according to a 2020 reviewThere are many theories about how oral health affects skin conditions like eczema.

Impaired innate immune system

Some evidence suggests that exposure to oral bacteria before and after birth may affect the development of a child's immune system. If a biological parent has gum disease, it may impair the development of the child's innate immune system. include Formation of a barrier to infection, such as the skin.

Skin barrier dysfunction is a distinctive feature of eczema. It prevents the skin from maintaining optimal hydration levels, leaving the skin dry and vulnerable to pathogens and irritants.

underlying immune dysfunction

A second theory linking oral health to eczema suggests that exposure to oral bacteria early in life affects future immune system responses to infections in the mouth and elsewhere in the body.

In this theory, the same immune dysfunction that causes gum disease also causes eczema.


Some experts speculate that oral infections may lead to skin disease through cross-reactivity of heat shock proteins—a protein type Cells are produced under stress.

Human and bacterial cells produce heat shock proteins. According to this theory, oral bacteria's heat shock proteins trigger an immune response against any cardiac shock protein, including those subsequently produced by skin cells.

The immune system mistakes the body's heat shock proteins for those from bacteria, causing an inflammatory response in the skin.

While the exact link between eczema and oral health is unclear, some oral problems caused by eczema are more common than others.

according to 2020 reviewFor example, atopic dermatitis is primarily associated with:

  • Gingivitis
  • toothache
  • oral infection

A Smaller studies in 2020 An association has also been found between atopic dermatitis and dental abnormalities or changes in the typical structure, size, shape, or number of teeth.

Researchers attribute this connection to the common origin of teeth and skin, which both develop from embryonic tissue called the ectoderm.

Oral health is important to everyone, but living with eczema can present unique oral challenges.

For example, eczema can increased risk of infection From naturally occurring oral bacteria and long-term medication use.

Furthermore, the potential bidirectional association between oral health and eczema suggests that inadequate oral care may negatively impact eczema symptoms and its treatment.

To help people with eczema maintain oral health, Huang recommends brushing and flossing after each meal.

Traditional flossing can be harmful to your gums and can lead to gum infections. Therefore, a water flosser (also known as an oral irrigator) can be an effective alternative for removing debris from your mouth.

In addition to these measures, maintaining oral health while treating eczema depends on individual circumstances and existing oral health problems.

To rinse or not to rinse

The use of mouthwash remains a topic of debate, and deciding whether it is appropriate for an oral care routine may require a professional's opinion.

According to one 2022 AnalysisThe formulations of many mouthwash ingredients are highly variable and unstable, and little is known about their efficacy related to oral health.

A 2022 reviewOn the other hand, national scientific evidence continues to support the use of antibacterial mouthwash to inhibit bacterial adhesion in the mouth.

A dentist or dental professional can determine whether and which type of mouthwash a person should add to their eczema oral care routine.

stay hydrated

Saliva plays an important role in preventing infection and tooth help Among other things, it flushes away food debris and contains antimicrobial substances that inhibit bacterial growth.

Maintaining adequate moisture in your mouth is essential for natural oral health. A simple yet effective way to achieve this is to drink water regularly.

A 2021 population-based panel study found that drinking less than 1 cup of water per day was associated with increased rates of periodontal disease and dental caries, a broad term that describes different manifestations of tooth decay, such as cavities .

Treat eczema

Huang advises people to remember to manage eczema as part of their oral health care. For example, well-managed eczema is less likely to cause mouth and lip irritation and is less likely to flare up due to oral conditions.

Eczema and oral health appear to have a bidirectional relationship, meaning they can both affect each other. Eczema may be associated with oral conditions such as gingivitis and dental abnormalities, and oral conditions such as gum disease may affect the immune response to eczema.

While the exact cause of the link between eczema and oral health is unknown, shared developmental pathways, inflammatory responses, and immune function may all play a role.

Managing eczema and focusing on maintaining oral health may be beneficial for both types of disease.

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