How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Teeth
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, inflammatory condition. It develops when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in your body, causing painful swelling in the affected area. Although it is commonly characterized by inflammation in the wrists and knees, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect your jaw and teeth—here’s how.
Oral Health Problems and Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are a number of dental complications that can result from rheumatoid arthritis. Common issues include periodontitis, TMJ disorders, tooth decay, and Sjögren’s syndrome. These problems aren’t usually the first that come to mind when you think about symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but it is especially important for people with RA to take good care of their oral health.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Your Gums
Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is caused by inflammation in the gums, which makes people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis particularly susceptible. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins found that 70 out of 100 people with rheumatoid arthritis also suffered from gum disease, a statistic much higher than the rest of the population.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Swollen or discolored gums
- Gums that are tender and/or bleeding
- Severe bad breath
- Loose teeth or receding gums
- Pain when chewing food
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Your Jaw
Inflammation in your temporomandibular joint can be very painful, and since RA attacks the joints, TMJ disorders are a common complication.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- Jaw pain
- Tenderness in the neck, shoulders, and around the ear
- Clicking or popping in the jaw
- Facial swelling on one side
- Difficulty chewing, or discomfort when biting down
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Your Teeth
As we mentioned above, gum disease is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. However, gum disease affects more of your mouth than just your gums—it can lead to other dental problems like cavities and tooth decay as well.
Some signs that you are suffering from tooth decay include:
- Sensitive teeth
- Tooth pain
- Staining on the surface of a tooth
- Pain when biting down
- Pain when drinking something hot or cold
Pronounced SHOW-grins, this disorder usually occurs along with other immune system disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Sjögren’s syndrome affects the moisture-secreting glands in your eyes and mouth, resulting in dry eyes and dry mouth. Xerostomia (dry mouth) can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease, as well as mouth sores, thrush, and difficulty chewing or swallowing.
Oral Care Advice for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Preventive care is essential when it comes to staying ahead of the problems that rheumatoid arthritis can cause for your teeth. Scheduling routine dental appointments is the best way to check up on your oral health. A consistent oral care routine at home is vitally important as well.
We recommend that you:
- Brush and floss your teeth twice a day
- Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco
- Limit your alcohol and sugar intake
- Stay hydrated
- Pay attention to your symptoms
It is also important to stick to your rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan. The steps you take to prevent inflammation in your joints will also help prevent the oral complications brought about by rheumatoid arthritis. If you haven’t already, talk to your healthcare provider about your treatment options.
Periodontal Care in Prescott, Arizona
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful and difficult diagnosis to deal with, but dedicated dental care can help prevent some of the negative side effects. Because rheumatoid arthritis affects your gums and teeth, you need a dentist that specializes in periodontal care. The experts at Prescott Dentistry can help you protect your mouth and prevent gum disease—request an appointment online or call us at 928-445-1660 today.