The Link Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Dental Health

At Mettler and Griego Family Dentistry, we’ve observed a close link between rheumatoid arthritis and dental health over the course of our practice. Because arthritis is an inflammatory condition, it can complicate dental conditions like gum disease and lead to tooth loss. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, your dental health could be at risk.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect your joints and other body systems. It occurs when your immune system attacks your body’s tissues instead of those of outside invaders. 

Outside of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis can affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, nerve tissue, bone marrow, and blood vessels. It presents itself mainly in the form of swollen, tender, or stiff joints as well as fatigue, fever, or loss of appetite. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Dental Health

Due to the inflammatory nature of the disease, arthritis can also affect your dental health. Inflammation causes gum disease, the number one source of tooth decay and oral infections. If you have arthritis, you may be more likely to need a crown or a root canal. However, adjusting your daily oral care routine and visiting your dentist more often can help protect your dental health.

While there is a high implant success rate for those who have rheumatoid arthritis and dental implants, it is recommended that those with both participate in rigorous maintenance programs due these patients’ vulnerability to soft tissue breakdown. 

At Mettler and Griego Family Dentistry, we offer diode laser therapy for gum health.This non-invasive treatment kills the harmful bacteria in your mouth and helps to heal damaged gum tissue. The laser penetrates deep below the gumline to seek and destroy the bacteria that cause infections and inflammation.  Laser therapy is quick, effective, and completely painless. 

Dental Complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis

Periodontal Disease

Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease damages the soft tissue as well as the bones that support your teeth. Inflammation can make your gums pull away from your teeth, leaving them vulnerable to plaque and the acid attacks that cause cavities. If you have any symptoms of periodontal disease, you should schedule a dentist appointment right away.

Signs of periodontitis can include:

  • Swollen or puffy gums
  • Bright red, dusky red or purplish gums
  • Gums that feel tender when touched
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Pink-tinged toothbrush after brushing
  • Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing your teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Loose teeth or loss of teeth
  • Painful chewing
  • New spaces developing between your teeth
  • Receding gums that pull away from your teeth, making them look longer than normal
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s Syndrome is a disorder that decreases the amount of moisture in your eyes and mouth. About half of the time it occurs along with another autoimmune connective tissue disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.

While many patients experience dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain, Sjogren’s Syndrome can also cause dysfunction of organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. 

To reach a diagnosis, dentists can perform a salivary flow test to measure the amount of saliva you produce, or a salivary gland biopsy. 

TMJ Disorders

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, connects your jaw to your skull. In other words, it is the joint that allows you to open and close your mouth. Due to inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis, it can become painful to move your jaw. 

Symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear
  • Problems when you try to open your mouth wide
  • Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open- or closed-mouth position
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth 
  • A tired feeling in your face
  • Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite
  • Swelling on the side of your face

Dental Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Scheduling frequent dentist appointments for professional cleaning and laser therapy can help prevent complications from rheumatoid arthritis. Mettler and Griego Family Dentistry in Glendale specializes in diagnosing and treating periodontal diseases. If you have arthritis, we can help! Contact us to make an appointment today.

Photo by Luis Machado on Unsplash