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Dr. Na Xu
Healthy Smiles Family Dental

2601 25th St., Suite 400
Salem, OR 97302

P: (503) 385-1185
F: (503) 339-1981

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Dental Health: What You Need to Know

Posted on 11/10/2015 by Na Xu
An elderly woman suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.If you or a loved one is living with rheumatoid arthritis, you likely have a variety of new concerns in your life, but did you know that your dental health needs to be one of them? Studies have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis are two times more likely to have gum disease than others, and they are significantly more likely to have moderate or severe jawbone loss.

Additionally, a study showed that people with rheumatoid arthritis averaged nearly 12 missing teeth, compared to only about 7 missing teeth within the control group. By better understanding the risks of gum disease when living with rheumatoid arthritis, you can take the steps to keep your teeth healthy despite your diagnosis.

Understanding the Connection between Gum Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to an increased risk for dental health problems when you are battling rheumatoid arthritis. First, chronic inflammatory diseases will make you more likely to develop gum tissue inflammation and gum disease. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause your hands to become painful and stiff, which can make it difficult to properly care for your teeth with adequate brushing and flossing. This can result in plaque accumulation on the gums and teeth, leading to increased oral inflammation.

Problems may also result if the temporomandibular joint is also affected by your rheumatoid arthritis. This could make it difficult or painful for you to keep your mouth open for an extended period of time, whether this is for a long dental procedure or a simple brushing. Additionally, you may begin to experience jaw pain or headaches.

Many patients who are living with rheumatoid arthritis are also required to take NSAIDs or high doses of aspirin in order to help with their symptoms. Unfortunately, this can be problematic for dental health and procedures. Bleeding may increase and can cause hemorrhaging following surgical dental procedures, so it is important that patients who are being treated with rheumatoid arthritis discuss the medications that they are taking with their dentist prior to getting any work done.

What You Can Do
Fortunately, there are a variety of steps that you can take to improve your oral health and ensure that your mouth stays healthy even with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. First, if your rheumatoid arthritis is severe, you should consider using assistive aids in order to make it easier for you to brush and floss.

An electric toothbrush could be more efficient for you while requiring less dexterity and fine finger movements. Ask your dentist if adding prescription mouthwash or fluoride toothpaste to your oral hygiene routine could also help to keep your decay and plaque levels under control.

It is also crucial that you make your dental health a priority after your diagnosis. While it is clear that you have a lot on your plate with trying to manage your symptoms of arthritis, you shouldn't let this be a reason to neglect your oral health. Set time aside every day to manage your dental health and oral care with proper brushing and flossing. You should also continue to see your dentist regularly, and if you notice any of the classic warning signs of gum disease - such as swollen gums and bleeding - you should be sure to make an appointment right away.

If you are living with rheumatoid arthritis or another chronic illness and are wondering how to best care for your teeth, contact our office to set up an evaluation. We can help you find the adaptive aids and techniques that will allow you to more efficiently keep your teeth clean despite your diagnosis.

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