Guess where I was this week? You’ve got it, the dentist! I’ve always been aware of the importance of dental check-ups, but after I was diagnosed with RA (rheumatoid arthritis) the check-ups became high priority.
A correlation between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis has been identified for some time now. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, a study published back in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Periondontology says German researchers discovered that patients with RA have a higher incidence of periodontal disease compared with healthy controls. More recently, a review article “Periodontal Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis: the Evidence Accumulates for Complex Pathobiologic Interactions”, authored by Clifton O. Bingham, III and Malini Moni, archived at US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health (NIH) discusses going beyond the association between gum disease and RA to potential mechanisms responsible for said association. The possibility is to improve patient outcomes for both diseases. Now that is a happy thought!
Knowing gum disease is more frequent and severe in RA patients is reason enough for me to do what I can to prevent it. Flossing, brushing and regular dental check-ups are essential. I try to floss daily, brush my teeth at least morning and night, and visit my dentist every six months. I know of a dentist that recommends dental check-ups four times a year for RA patients. That is your call. I also use dental picks, especially when away from home. They are handy to carry in a purse, backpack or briefcase. Smoking and chewing tobacco are associated with increased gum disease.
I can think of three factors complicating oral health for some with RA. First is a condition called Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s causes dry eyes and mouth, preventing the normal ability for saliva to wash away bacteria in the mouth. A mouthwash such as Biotene Moisturizing Mouth Rinse can help hydrate the oral cavity. Drinking plenty of water helps, as well. Second, some of us with RA have limited strength and mobility, therefore finding brushing and flossing our teeth properly, difficult. An electric or battery powered toothbrush is not only easier to hold, but will do the work brushing and cleaning our teeth. A waterpik flosser is another suggestion. Third, those of us on Methotrexate may experience mouth sores. A folic acid supplement can help counter the anti-metabolite effect of Methotrexate that causes the sores.
The importance of good oral health goes far beyond the desire to flash pearly whites. We want to eliminate, or at least decrease, inflammation where we can. Taking care of our teeth and gums can not only prevent gum disease, but improve our rheumatoid arthritis management. I would love to hear your thoughts about good oral habits! We can all help each other! XOXO Cathy