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Rheumatoid Arthritis and your teeth

Updated on July 23, 2015
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I am not an expert in the area of Rheumatoid Arthritis but write on the topic as I was diagnosed with a severe and aggressive form of RA.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and your dental care

Rheumatoid Arthritis and dental problems, what do they have in common?

First of all, I am not a doctor, dentist, or health care professional. I am simply a person learning to live with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and sharing that journey with others.

Two years ago I started having weird dental issues, more cavities and sensitivity in my teeth. I went through extensive dental work to correct all dental issues. It was not until I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis that my dentist understood the cause of my dental problems. He explained that Rheumatoid Arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease, makes me more susceptible to inflammation of gum tissue and gum disease. Additionally, he said that RA symptoms can cause my hands to be stiff or painful, resulting in poor flossing or brushing techniques.

In researching this further, I found that people with rheumatoid arthritis may be at increased risk for periodontal disease, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Dental care should be a priority.

If you have RA, you should check with your dentist immediately and put a treatment plan in place. Set time aside every day to brush and floss. Don’t underestimate the impact your RA has on your teeth and gums. I now have my teeth cleaned every four months. Not my first choice, but something that I have to do to stay healthy. Make sure you take a list of your medication and provide it to your Dentist. Coordinate your dental needs with your Rheumatologist.

If needed, used assistive aids.

  • I use a prescription fluoride toothpaste at night for dry mouth which is the biggest cause of my dental issues. I have reduced the cost for this prescription by having my Rheumatologist prescribe the toothpaste as opposed to my dentist and I go through my HMO.

  • Additionally, I use a Biotene spray throughout the day whenever I feel that my mouth is dry. I also have a bottle of water with me at all times to help relieve the dry mouth symptom. Biotene also makes toothpaste, mouthwash and other related products.

  • An electric toothbrush might be more efficient if you are having difficulties holding a toothbrush. I like the Sonicare toothbrush which has a larger handle making it easier to grasp.

  • Using dental floss is difficult with RA so look for flossing tools that provide a small piece of floss hooked to a handle which will make it easy to use. A water jet system may also help with flossing.

The best piece of advice I have to give you is to be proactive not reactive. Don’t wait until you have a dental issue. Go in now and put a treatment plan in place now. My dental insurance coverage pays for two cleanings a year. Since I go in three times a year, I have to come out of pocket for one of the visits which equates to about $99.00. After paying $1,300.00 out of pocket for the dental work done two years ago, the $99.00 spent on cleanings is not so bad.

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