You may not be aware that rheumatoid arthritis and oral health are closely connected. Individuals who live with this autoimmune disease have a higher risk of developing gum damage and tooth loss. In addition, research on the connection between oral health and rheumatoid arthritis has discovered that poor oral health can trigger the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
In this article, we will discuss more about rheumatoid arthritis and how it can affect oral health, as well as how to best care for your teeth and gums.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis, also often referred to as RA, is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints of the hands, wrists, and knees. While our immune systems work hard to defend against harmful viruses and bacteria, in some cases it can also attack healthy cells, which results in rheumatoid arthritis.
Statistically, this disease affects more women than men and is widely believed to be caused by a combination of hormonal, genetic, and environmental factors. Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to the development of osteopenia or osteoporosis both of which can result in weakened bones.
One of the unfortunate effects of rheumatoid arthritis is the gradual destruction of bone and articular cartilage. Articular cartilage protects the bones at the point of the connection, known as the joint. Each joint has different thicknesses of articular cartilage that act as shock absorbers and help bones move smoothly whether straightening or flexing.
How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Your Oral Health?
Because rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease, it can have negative effects on your dental health in a variety of ways. Chronic inflammation can cause gum disease, which is the leading cause of oral infections and tooth decay.
Even in the beginning stages of rheumatoid arthritis, individuals are often more susceptible to oral health issues such as periodontitis or gingivitis. While gingivitis is typically associated with swollen gums, periodontitis affects the tissues and bones responsible for holding the teeth in place. Without adequate dental care, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis.
Other oral health problems that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis include loss of movement and pain in the jaw, infections, and Sjogren’s syndrome. It can also have adverse effects on the salivary glands, resulting in dryness, difficulty swallowing, and severe tooth decay.
Some individuals with rheumatoid arthritis find it difficult to properly brush and floss their teeth because of stiff and painful joints in their hands, wrists, and shoulders. Without proper dental
care, an increased risk for infection is present. When an individual has an autoimmune disease, they can become more susceptible to dangerous infections.
Oral Healthcare for Individuals with RA
Regular Dentists Visits Are Essential
Dentists are an incredibly important and valuable resource for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Recent research on oral bacteria and rheumatoid arthritis has discovered a significant connection between the two, In light of this, it is widely believed that a healthy mouth can minimize the progression and impact of arthritis symptoms. It is important to find a dentist who is familiar with the symptoms and effects of this disease so that they can monitor your oral health and identify possible triggers and potential problems.
Oral Health Starts at Home
Don’t underestimate the importance of taking care of your teeth and gums at home. This should include brushing twice daily and flossing once per day. If you find it difficult or painful to brush your teeth properly, consider an electric toothbrush that requires less movement and pressure in the hands, arms, and shoulders.
Always Stay One Step Ahead
While it is true that everyone should get their teeth cleaned at least once per year, if you have rheumatoid arthritis or it runs in your family, you may want to see your dentist more often. An increase in inflammation of the gum tissue is sometimes an early warning sign of a flare-up of RA. In addition, eliminating harmful oral bacteria may help to minimize RA symptoms. The bottom line is that it is essential to take good care of your teeth and gums as it may help relieve your aching joints.
Good oral health starts with a strong oral health practice and regular checkups. Research has shown that periodontal therapy can help ease some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis while also improving overall oral health.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, our friendly team at our Guelph dentist’s office can help you develop an effective oral health plan to meet your unique needs. Contact our amazing team today!