Dental Care and Rheumatoid Arthritis

A diagram of bone marrow in the knee.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may compromise your oral health. Both RA and gum disease are linked to severe inflammation, but RA can occur even if there are no foreign invaders in the body since it is an autoimmune disease.

Inflammation is the bodyโ€™s natural response to harmful bacteria and viruses, and paying more attention to your oral health may help prevent RA symptoms from developing.

At Image Dental Care in Red Deer, AB, we recognize that having RA can worsen dental problems, such as gum disease. You may need a special or reinforced dental care routine to protect your teeth.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that can affect the joints and other body parts, including the skin and eyes. It occurs when the immune system malfunctions and attacks your own tissues instead of outside invaders. Among its symptoms are painful and swollen joints, fatigue, and appetite loss.

RA can also impact the teeth, as it shares risk factors with gum disease. If you have RA, you may become more vulnerable to dental problems, so itโ€™s essential to see your dentist regularly and maintain good oral hygiene habits. The soft tissue can become more susceptible to damage, so other dental procedures, such as implants, will require more attention and stricter maintenance.

What are the potential effects of RA on your oral health?

Here are some dental problems that can possibly occur if you have RA:

  • Oral infections. If the medications youโ€™re taking can impact your immune system, you may be at a higher risk of developing oral health problems caused by harmful bacteria. A person can become more prone to developing infections either around a tooth or jaw, as well as fungal diseases such as oral thrush and painful sores. Let your dentist know immediately if you notice any irregularities in your mouth.
  • TMJ. RA can also cause discomfort in your jaw joint and difficulties when you open or close your mouth. The tendons can become inflamed, making it hard for the joint to function. If you have RA, your dentist can help you determine through x-rays if there are issues with your jaw joints. Among the symptoms of TMJ-related disorders are clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth, facial swelling and pain, and sudden chewing discomfort.
  • Sjogren's syndrome. Like RA, Sjogren's syndrome is also an autoimmune disease that can occur on its own or along with another similar disease. Sjogren's syndrome damages fluid-producing glands, which can then lead to dry mouth and chewing and eating difficulties. Clogged salivary glands are more prone to infection and could be severely painful. Encouraging salivary flow by staying hydrated and chewing sugar-free candies can help protect your mouth from the effects of Sjogren's syndrome.
  • Periodontitis. RA can cause pain, which, in turn, can make it hard for some people to clean their mouths. Gum disease can damage the soft tissue and bones once it has progressed and cause gum recessions. If you notice signs of gum disease, such as bleeding, increased sensitivity, pus buildup, or gum recession, let your dentist know immediately.

Extra care may be required to maintain good oral health if you have RA. If youโ€™ve been maintaining good oral hygiene habits and still see signs of gum disease, check with your dentist or primary health care provider. Rule out other potential causes and find out if RA may be the culprit.

If you need to see a dentist in Red Deer, AB,call us at Image Dental Care. We offer dental emergency services and do our best to accommodate you on the same day.