5 Tips for RA Patients to Prevent Gum Disease

Good care is vital, as those with RA are more vulnerable to oral diseases

5 Tips for RA Patients to Prevent Gum Disease

By Rheumatoid Connect StaffA Published at December 11 Views 2,435

There has been a long-suspected link between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease, but a recent study has shed light on how close the connection between the two conditions is. Patients with RA are four times more likely than those without it to have gum disease. A whopping 65 percent of RA patients show evidence of gum disease, and when they do have it, it's more severe.

There’s some dispute over if gum disease could be a possible cause of rheumatoid arthritis, or if RA tends to make patients more vulnerable to gum disease. One theory suggests that oral bacteria may trigger an overactive immune response in the body, stimulating the development of RA.

To make matters worse, RA patients often have a hard time brushing and flossing without worsening pain in their hands and fingers. But regardless of which condition causes the other, there is some good news to be found in all of this: treating gum inflammation and infection can actually reduce joint pain and inflammation in RA patients. So it’s vital to take good care of your mouth daily at home. Here are some tips on how.

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristle brush — and make sure to change it once every three months. If joint pain in your hands and fingers makes brushing painful, try an electronic toothbrush, or methods to give yourself a better grip, such as adding a tennis ball to the end of the handle. Use an anti-plaque toothpaste with fluoride — one that comes in a pump if squeezing a tube is painful to you.

  2. Floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth and gums. Experiment with floss holders, picks or threaders to find which is easiest for you to use.

  3. Get the most out of your rinse, since it doesn’t require the use of your hands. Use a mouthwash with fluoride to protect against cavities and look for one with antibacterial properties.

  4. Don’t smoke. Not only does it increase your chances of developing gum disease, heart conditions and several cancers, it can also interfere with medications and other RA treatments.

  5. See your doctor regularly — preferably every six months, but at least once a year. Communicate with him or her about your RA and any medications you may be on. Based on this information, more frequent visits may be required. Try to make afternoon appointments to avoid the extra discomfort sitting in a dentist chair could add to morning stiffness.

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