3 Ways That Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Oral Health

9 June 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Blog

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Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that makes your body's immune system attack the linings of your joints. This leads to pain and swelling in your joints, especially in your hands and feet, but many parts of your body can be affected by this disease. Surprisingly, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect your oral health.

Temporomandibular joint disorders

Your temporomandibular joint is your jaw joint, and like the other joints in your body, it's not safe from the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. More than half of people with rheumatoid arthritis suffer from pain, swelling, and stiffness in their jaw joints. This makes it hard for you to chew, talk, clean your teeth, or even open your mouth. It can be managed with corticosteroids and over-the-counter painkillers, just like the pain in your other joints. Your dentist may also recommend following a soft food or liquid diet and may give you instructions for jaw joint exercises.

Dry mouth

Dry mouth is a chronic condition that makes you feel thirsty frequently. That may sound like it's just inconvenient, but dry mouth is a serious medical problem. Your saliva helps to keep your teeth clean between toothbrushing sessions, and it forms a barrier between your teeth and acids. Without an adequate flow of saliva, you need to worry about problems like tooth decay and acid erosion of your enamel. This is a common problem for people with rheumatoid arthritis: about half of sufferers have dry mouth. Dry mouth is treated with remedies like sipping water, chewing gum, or using artificial saliva.

Gum disease

Gum disease occurs when the bacteria in plaque irritates or infects your gum tissue, leading to swelling, redness, and pain. As gum disease worsens, it spreads from the gum tissue to the ligaments beneath the teeth, leading to tooth loss. Poor oral hygiene leads to gum disease, but rheumatoid arthritis plays a major role as well. People with rheumatoid arthritis are 8 times more likely to develop gum disease than people without the condition. This seems to be because both rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease involve your body's inflammatory response. Thorough professional cleaning is the usual treatment for gum disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain and swelling in your joints, but it also has some surprising effects inside your mouth. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, make sure that a professional dentist, like those at Roy And Kali Family Dental Centre, knows about your diagnosis, and make sure to see your dentist regularly for checkups.