Dental Implants: Pros and Cons

3 Ways Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Impact On Your Dental Health

by Brett Clark

Rheumatoid arthritis can impact on not only your joints but also your dental health. As an autoimmune disease, it can make oral hygiene difficult to maintain and leave your gums prone to inflammation. As such, regular dental check-ups should form part of your healthcare plan when you have rheumatoid arthritis. Here's an overview of three ways rheumatoid arthritis can impact on your dental health and a few tips for combating these issues:

Your Immune System Is Compromised

Bacteria thrive on food particles in your mouth, but a healthy immune system is usually able to keep the number of bacteria in your mouth in check. When you have a compromised immune system, bacteria levels can quickly grow and overwhelm your immune system's attempt to keep it under control. This creates an inflammatory reaction that can lead to gum disease and enamel erosion.

You're Susceptible To Developing A Dry Mouth

A dry mouth can be a side effect of certain medications, such as corticosteroids, commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. This may not sound like a serious problem, but without enough saliva, which is alkaline, your mouth can quickly become acidic. Bacteria thrive in acidic environments, so a dry mouth leaves you susceptible to an overgrowth of bacteria, which can bind with food particles to create plaque.

Swelling And Joint Pain Can Make Teeth Cleaning Challenging

Rheumatoid arthritis in your hands or jaw joints can make brushing your teeth physically challenging and painful. Thorough brushing and flossing may become impossible during a flare-up of your symptoms and food particles can easily be missed. Rotting food particles can damage your gums and encourage a build-up of tartar.

Tips For Maintaining Healthy Teeth And Gums

Reducing the bacteria in your mouth and improving your ability to clean your teeth thoroughly are key to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Ditch Refined Carbohydrates - White bread, pasta, processed breakfast cereals and other refined carbohydrates provide an instant source of food to the bacteria in your mouth as they begin to break down into simple sugars before you swallow them. You can stop feeding the bacteria in your mouth by switching to whole grain foods, which don't begin to break down until they reach your stomach.
  • Try Some Brushing Aids - There are a number of aids available that can make it easier for you to brush your teeth. A toothbrush with a thick, weighted handle can be easier to grip and control, but if you can't bend your fingers to grip a toothbrush, try a hook and loop palm strap. This secures the brush to your hand, so you don't need to grip it to be able to clean your teeth.
  • Ask Your Dentist For Fluoride Gel - This gel gives your teeth a protective coating, which can reduce enamel erosion by preventing plaque from sticking to your teeth. You simply rub it over your teeth with your finger, and your dentist can advise you on how often to use it.
  • Schedule A Scale And Polish - Having your teeth professionally cleaned a few times a year can keep plaque and tartar levels under control, which reduces your risk of developing cavities and gum disease.

Make sure to schedule an appointment with a dentist in an effort to keep your mouth healthier if you're concerned about the impact of rheumatoid arthritis on your teeth and gums.