How to Manage Dental Health with Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may find it more difficult to take care of your teeth. In fact, having gum disease is considered a risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.In addition, if you have rheumatoid arthritis already, you're more likely to develop gum disease, and not just because you have a harder time caring for your teeth. Likely, the disease attacks the gums, much like it attacks the joints in the body.If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may need to make some adjustments to your dental routine to improve your dental health.
Practicing Good Dental Hygiene
Try an electric toothbrush with a wide grip.Brushing can be difficult if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, as it can be hard to grip and move your toothbrush. The wider base of an electric toothbrush is easier to grasp. Plus, the electric toothbrush will do most of the work for you, as it provides the brushing action.
- Remember to brush for two minutes twice a day, or better yet, after every meal.
Ask your dentist about tools to help you floss.You may also find it difficult to floss if you have pain in your hands. Luckily, special tools can make the process easier. Your dentist or physical therapist can tell which tools will work best for you.
- One simple solution you can try is a flossing stick. These sticks are readily available in most stores. They are a small stick that ends in a piece of dental floss suspended between two small bars. They can make it easier to floss because you only need one hand to do it.
Use an alcohol-free mouthwash.Mouthwashes with alcohol in them can dry out your mouth, leading to more dental problems. Dry mouth is particularly an issue if you already suffer from Sjögren’s syndrome, a condition that is sometimes associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- It can also help to use a fluoride rinse.
Watch for signs of gingivitis.When you have rheumatoid arthritis you are at a higher risk of developing gum disease.Therefore, it is important for you to watch for any signs of bleeding or redness or swelling of your gums. Signs of gingivitis may include:
- Swollen, puffy gums
- Dark red gums
- Bleeding when you brush or floss
- Recession in your gums (pulling away from your teeth)
- Tenderness in your gums
- Bad breath
Take your medications.Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as NSAIDs, have protective properties for your joints and for your gums.These medications can help to control swelling in both areas. If your doctor has prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication to you, then make sure that you take it.
Avoid high sugar foods and processed foods.Make sure that you avoid foods that promote plaque and tooth decay. Consuming these foods can lead to a worsening of your condition. Foods to avoid include:
- Starchy foods like chips and bread
- Sugary drinks, such as sodas
See a dentist every six months.One of the best ways to help take care of your teeth is to see your dentist regularly. Your dentist can provide a thorough cleaning, which will help your dental health. In addition, they should be able to identify warning signs of problems, such as the development of infections.
- Discuss what medications you're on with your dentist, as many that you might take for rheumatoid arthritis can affect your dental health.
- If you're on steroids and have been for a long period, you may need an extra dose before you go to the dentist. Talk to your doctor about whether that's appropriate for you.
- If you have trouble keeping your mouth open for very long, ask your dentist if you can schedule a couple of shorter appointments rather than one long appointment. Be sure to explain why. Most dentists will be willing to work with you.
Working on Dry Mouth
Drink water frequently.Often, those with rheumatoid arthritis also suffer from a condition called Sjögren’s syndrome, which can lead to dry mouth. Even if you don't suffer from this additional condition, some rheumatoid arthritis medications can also lead to dry mouth. If that's the case with you, make sure you are drinking fluids regularly to keep your mouth moistened.
- Dry mouth can cause problems with chewing, as well as increase the bacteria in your mouth, all of which can lead to dental problems.
Use a saliva substitute.A saliva substitute helps rehydrate your mouth when you don't have enough saliva. You can buy these products over the counter at most pharmacies. Usually, you spray or rinse with the replacement saliva for rehydration.
Suck on sugar-free candies or chew gum.These candies will help increase the saliva in your mouth by stimulating the salivary glands, and you can use them as often as you'd like. Using sugar-free candies is important because they will not contribute to more dental problems.
Skip antihistamines and decongestants.Antihistamines and decongestants can make you drier. While you may not be able to avoid these medications all the time, try to avoid them when you can, so you don't dry yourself out even more.
Try using a humidifier.If you often find yourself sleeping with your mouth open, that can lead to an even drier mouth, particularly if you live in a dry climate. Try using a humidifier in your room at night, which will make the air less drying.
Working on Other Factors
Get plenty of rest.Not getting enough sleep can increase your stress levels and lead to a flare-up, so it is crucial to get plenty of rest.Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep each night and a two hour rest period in the middle of the day. Go to bed earlier to ensure that you are getting enough sleep.
- If you are struggling to get enough sleep, then talk with your doctor.
Lose weight.If you are overweight, then losing weight may also help to ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Being overweight increases your inflammation, which may intensify your symptoms overall.
- Talk to your doctor about your options for healthy weight loss.
Ask your doctor about a folic acid supplement.If you have problems with mouth ulcers due to your condition, a folic acid supplement may help reduce the number you have. Talk to your doctor about whether this option is a good one for you.
- If you are having severe pain from ulcers, you can use a numbing mouthwash to help.
Watch for infections.If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you may be on immunosuppressive medications. While these medications may help your arthritis, they can make you more likely to develop bacterial infections in your mouth. The symptoms include swelling in your mouth, pain, fever, and swelling in the nodes around your jaw.
- You may also have more fungal infections in your mouth, such as thrush or candida. You'll notice a white coating on your tongue with these infections.
Skip tobacco products.Cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco can all cause damage for your dental health. If you use tobacco, consider quitting. You'll see an improvement in not only your dental health, but your overall health as well.
- Tobacco products can also dry out your mouth.
Video: Rheumatoid Arthritis | Causes, Signs, Symptoms and Treatment
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