Maintaining proper oral hygiene at home can be challenging for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA causes joint pain and manual dexterity difficulty, which makes daily tasks such as brushing and flossing difficult. Periodontal disease is more prevalent in those with RA, and the limitations of the health issue may be one reason.
RA and inadequate oral hygiene
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the nation, and one of the first signs is bleeding gums when a patient brushes and/or flosses. Additional symptoms of gum disease include chronic bad breath and receding gums that expose tooth roots. Without treatment, gum disease can lead to gum infections, darker gum tissues, loose teeth and eventual tooth loss. The top cause of gum disease is inadequate oral hygiene, and those with RA—who find maintaining their oral health difficult—raise their chances of experiencing gum disease.
Both RA and gum disease are chronic inflammatory diseases, which means that the inflammation never turns itself off, even when it’s no longer required by the body’s immune system. Ongoing studies seek a direct connection between gum disease and diabetes but studies that are more recent are looking into a link between RA and gum disease. One recent study included people with RA who also had symptoms of gum disease. All participants underwent treatment for RA symptoms, but only a select group received treatment for periodontal disease. By the conclusion of the study, the patients who received both periodontal disease treatment and RA treatment experienced a greater improvement in RA symptoms than the other participants did.
Further research needed
Although the research suggests a connection between RA and gum disease, it’s still not clear if arthritis happens due to gum disease or if gum disease is the result of arthritis. The similarities between oral tissues of periodontal disease and tissues from RA-affected joints are too great to ignore, but further research is the only way to determine the true cause and effect. It’s possible that arthritic joints lead to oral tissue inflammation or vice versa, but even though researchers don’t yet understand the exact connection, it shows how vital it is to treat gum disease in RA patients and all patients.
If you’re suffering from RA or other inflammatory disease, you need to take additional measures to maintain great oral health. Chianese Dental can help you maintain and improve your oral health through regular exams, cleanings and any necessary dental treatments.