You may not automatically associate your rheumatoid arthritis with your oral health. After all, the main problems you must deal with are likely to be in other areas of your body rather than your mouth. However, if you've recently noticed that your gums are not in as good a shape as they used to be, your dentist may talk to you about the connection between your arthritis and your gums. What are the links between rheumatoid arthritis and gum health?
Inflammatory Connections With Your Gums
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease where your immune system attacks its own joints causing inflammation to soft tissues and, ultimately, damage to the joints. While arthritis is typically associated with areas of the body such as your arms and legs, it is thought that this condition can also affect other areas of soft tissues like your gums. In fact, there is some evidence that people with rheumatoid arthritis are eight times more likely to suffer from gum disease than people without this condition.
While your arthritis itself may be a contributing factor to gum problems, the way your disease affects your body can also affect the health of your gums.
Mobility Problems and Oral Health
If your rheumatoid arthritis affects mobility in your hands, wrists or arms, then you will have problems carrying out some everyday tasks. A bad flare-up in your hands, for example, can make it hard to hold a toothbrush correctly and to use it; pain in your wrists may make even gentle brushing and flossing unbearable.
Without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, plaque can build up and start to affect your gum health. If you don't have the manual dexterity to clean your teeth as well as you'd like, you may start to notice that your gums get swollen and inflamed and that they bleed very easily. Over time, if you can't turn things around, the damage might ultimately turn into periodontal gum disease which can also affect your teeth.
It's worth telling your dentist that you have rheumatoid arthritis, even if you aren't experiencing any problems with your gums right now. Your dentist can then make sure to keep a closer eye on your gums and make recommendations that may make it easier to manage your everyday oral health.
For example, your dentist may recommend that you use an antibacterial mouthwash as an extra way to keep bacteria off your teeth and gums; regular visits to the hygienist for a deep clean will also help. If you're having problems with pain when you brush your teeth, think about switching to an electric toothbrush – this will hopefully take the strain out of brushing for you.