How Arthritis Can Affect Your Dental Health

How Arthritis Can Affect Your Dental Health

Post Date: Mar 06, 2024

Arthritis can affect many aspects of your life, including your dental health, whether you’re dealing with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The link between arthritis and dental health is strong, and it may go both ways. RA is an autoimmune disorder with strong ties to oral bacteria. That means that RA might impact your dental health, and poor oral health might contribute to your RA. Here’s what you need to know about arthritis and its effect on your dental health.

Oral conditions connected to arthritis

A number of oral conditions are connected to RA. These include gingivitis, periodontitis, Sjögren’s syndrome, jaw pain, and oral infections.

Bacteria and fungi can both be at the root of oral infections. Reduced mobility in your temporomandibular joints (TMJ), which connect your lower jaw to your skull, can lead to pain when you open and close your mouth. Sjögren’s syndrome is an inflammatory condition that makes your mouth dry, impacting salivary glands. This can make it hard to eat and lead to tooth decay. Periodontitis results from inflammation that impacts the tissue and bones that support your teeth. Gingivitis is a mild type of gum disease that leads to tender and swollen gums.

For people with osteoarthritis, reduced mobility in the hands can mean difficulty brushing teeth, leading to plaque buildup. As a result, they’re more likely to have periodontitis or gingivitis, and cavities. And some medicines that treat osteoarthritis can also suppress the immune system, making oral infections worse.

With all of those possible connections between arthritis and your oral health, it’s important to take steps to protect your mouth, as well as your joints.

Bacteria in your mouth can worsen arthritis

It’s not just arthritis that impacts mouth health. It also may work in reverse. Research shows that patients with severe RA are more likely to have severe gum disease. Scientists are beginning to recognize that bacteria escaping from the mouth through damaged tissue could be a contributing factor to patients developing RA in the first place. So it’s not all about joint pain making tooth-brushing harder, leading to oral health issues. Those oral health issues could contribute to RA developing in the first place, making it even more important to take care of your mouth.

Find modifications to help keep your mouth clean

Poor mobility can hurt oral hygiene. If you are dealing with arthritis in your hands, it can make it more difficult to hold your toothbrush or brush all of the surfaces of your teeth. And loss of motion in your TMJ can make it difficult to chew your food properly or open your mouth comfortably to brush and floss. Holding a standard toothbrush might be hard if you’re dealing with arthritis pain. And vigorous but gentle brushing might be difficult.

Using an electric toothbrush can be helpful to try if you’re not able to brush as well as you used to. The toothbrush does the work, and you just have to hold it as you move it across your teeth. They can also be better for sensitive gums, helping you clean along your gum line without irritating your skin. If it’s difficult or uncomfortable to hold the floss in your hands, a floss pick or water flosser could be a solution for cleaning between your teeth.

Visit the dentist for checkups and cleanings

Head off dental problems before they start when you stay on top of your oral health with regular visits to the dentist, including professional cleanings. Dental staff can help you stay on top of your oral hygiene, find problems early, and help you make modifications to your oral care routine when you need to.

Clinics like CHP’s dental clinics in Bozeman and Livingston provide affordable appointments while also offering emergency walk-in care when you need it. Make an appointment, and help your oral health through comprehensive care.