When you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), life can be hard. Basic tasks like brushing your teeth and flossing can become difficult. However, when you have an autoimmune condition like RA, it’s even more crucial that you visit your dentist at least twice a year for checkups and cleanings. That’s because there is a link between arthritis and periodontal disease in Tysons Corner and Potomac. This means if you have RA, you’re more likely to lose your teeth! Continue reading to learn more about this connection, and what you can do to keep your teeth and gums in good shape.
THE INFLAMMATION LINK BETWEEN GUM DISEASE AND RA
To this day, doctors are not entirely sure of the exact connection between RA and periodontal (gum) disease, but they both have inflammation in common. Inflammation is an immune system response to foreign bodies like bacteria. In the case of an autoimmune disease like RA, though, there are no outside bacteria, so the immune system essentially attacks your own body, resulting in inflammation.
One theory behind the link between gum disease and RA is that the inflammation started by one sets off a chain reaction of inflammation throughout the body. Your RA inflammation could spread to your mouth, for example, especially if you have poor oral health.
Another theory states that because RA causes you to lose some dexterity, you might have a harder time brushing and flossing, resulting in an increased likelihood of developing gum disease.
TREATMENT FOR ONE CONDITION MIGHT IMPROVE THE OTHER
A study out of Case Western University demonstrated that when people with severe RA treated their periodontal disease, their RA symptoms got better. Patients who were treated with drugs for both gum disease and RA fared better than those who only received medication for RA. They stressed that people with RA should get their gums evaluated by a periodontist or even a dentist at least once annually to make sure gum disease isn’t afoot.
DENTAL CARE FOR PEOPLE WITH RA
If you have the early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, it can be reversed with improved at-home dental hygiene, like increased brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash. Here are some tips from the American Dental Association to make dental care easier if you have RA:
- To better handle your brush, attach a bicycle grip or tennis ball to the end of it.
- Use different types of dental floss aside from the traditional one, like water flossing, floss picks, and interdental brushes.
- Put your toothpaste in a pump instead of a tube so that it’s easier to dispense.
- Quit smoking. It more than doubles your chances of developing gum disease.
Preventing gum disease is crucial to your health, especially if you have a condition like RA. Keep these tips in mind to increase your likelihood of keeping your teeth!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Sam Osseiran graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Dentistry. He later received a Mastership status in the American Academy of General Dentistry. He has more than 5000 hours of continuing education courses covering all dental disciplines under his belt. He is certified in the Chao Pinhole Surgical Technique to treat periodontal disease. To learn more, or to schedule a checkup and cleaning, visit Dr. Osseiran’s website.