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Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Lead to Dental Problems?

By Bruce Wilderman on September 01, 2016

Female patient at a dental examinationRheumatoid arthritis is a condition that is the result of an overactive immune system. This disease causes inflammation around the joints, which can cause them to become swollen and stiff. When rheumatoid arthritis flares up, movements can be limited and painful. Unfortunately, studies show that the effects of rheumatoid arthritis can actually impact the entire body, including the mouth. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are far more likely to suffer from gum disease, an inflammatory condition that causes swelling in the gums. Because of this link, general dentistry services to monitor and preserve oral health are vitally important to rheumatoid arthritis patients. Dr. Bruce Wilderman discusses the link between dental problems and rheumatoid arthritis with his Philadelphia, PA patients and offers some tips for minimizing the risk of oral health complications.

Dental Risks of Rheumatoid Arthritis

When considering the dental health of patients with rheumatoid arthritis vs. those without the condition, studies found a clear link between RA and gum disease. In fact, studies indicate that the risk of rheumatoid arthritis is up to eight times higher for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. RA patients are more likely to suffer from both gingivitis (the most minor form of gum disease) and periodontitis (a more severe form of gum disease). The exact reason for the link between these two diseases is unclear, but it is likely due to the fact that they are both inflammatory conditions, meaning that they cause swelling in the body.

Another important finding of these studies is that inflammation in the gums (the most common side effect of gum disease) increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. Studies indicated that RA patients who suffered from gum disease reported a significant improvement in their RA symptoms once gum disease was treated. According to these reports, after gum disease treatment, swelling and pain were far less severe.

All of these findings point to the importance of professional dental care and good oral hygiene habits for rheumatoid arthritis patients. By focusing on maintaining good oral health, RA patients can minimize the risk of gum disease and reduce the incidence and severity of rheumatoid arthritis.

Dental Care Tips for RA Patients

One of the unfortunate effects of rheumatoid arthritis is that swollen joints can make it more difficult to perform daily tasks, including routine dental care. Swelling around the joints of the hands can compromise a patient’s grip and make brushing and flossing more difficult. Below are some tips that rheumatoid arthritis patients can use to make oral hygiene practices easier:

  • Use an electric toothbrush, which offers maximum power with minimal effort
  • If it is difficult to grip a toothbrush, consider alterations, such as a tennis ball on the base of the brush
  • Use floss holders or floss picks
  • Consider using a toothpaste that comes in a pump container, rather than a tube
  • Use a mouthwash for extra protection against cavities

Schedule an Appointment

Professional dental care offers rheumatoid arthritis patients their best defense against dental complications such as gum disease. If you are looking for an experienced dentist to help you care for your teeth and gums, look no further than Dr. Bruce Wilderman. Dr. Wildermine combines experience, expertise, and care to provide dental patients with oral care of the highest quality. Schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience.

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