Rheumatoid arthritis and dental health go hand-in-hand. Those with this autoimmune disease are at a higher risk of tooth loss and gum damage. Furthermore, researchers have been studying the connection between oral health and rheumatoid arthritis and have discovered that bad oral health may also trigger the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
Below we go into more detail about this autoimmune disease and explore how rheumatoid arthritis can affect your oral health and for example, whether dental implants are a feasible solution for tooth loss.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis, also referred to as RA, is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects the joints in the hands, wrists and knees. While our immune system defends against harmful invaders, it can also attack our healthy cells, resulting in rheumatoid arthritis.
This disease affects more women than men and is believed to be caused by hormones, genetics and environmental issues. Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis both resulting in the weakening of the bones.
One of the effects of rheumatoid arthritis is the destruction of bone and articular cartilage. Articular cartilage works to protect the bones at the scene of the connection, known as the joints. Each joint has varying thicknesses of articular cartilage to act as shock absorption and to help bones move smoothly when straightening or flexing.
Rheumatoid arthritis has four stages:
- Stage 1: Synovitis
- Stage 2: Pannus
- Stage 3: Fibrous ankylosis
- Stage 4: Bony ankylosis
Each stage involves a certain level of inflammation. It is at stage 3 (fibrous ankylosis) and stage 4 (bony ankylosis), where the patient may have great difficulty performing daily tasks such as the brushing and flossing of teeth.
How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Your Oral Health?
Since rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease, it can negatively affect your dental health in many ways. Inflammation can lead to gum disease, which is a leading cause of tooth decay and oral infections.
Even in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, patients may be more susceptible to oral health conditions such as gingivitis or periodontitis. Gingivitis is usually associated with swollen gums while periodontitis affects the tissues and bones holding the teeth in place. Without proper dental care, gingivitis can transform into periodontitis.
Other oral health problems patients with rheumatoid arthritis may experience include loss of motion and pain in movement of the jaw, infections and Sjogren’s syndrome. This inflammatory disease also has an adverse effect on the saliva glands, causing dryness, difficulty swallowing and tooth decay.
Some rheumatoid arthritis patients find it hard to properly brush and floss their teeth due to stiff and painful joints in the hands, wrists and shoulders. Without proper oral care, there is an increased risk for infection. When a person has an autoimmune disease,it can make them more susceptible todangerous infections.
Are Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Good Candidates for Dental Implants?
People with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to need a crown or a root canal. They may also require dental implants. Dental implants are commonly used to replace missing teeth as adult teeth do not regenerate. In addition to the aesthetic function, dental implants improve speech, chewing and prevent the remaining permanent teeth from shifting.
Like natural teeth, dental implants require regular care and cleaning to prevent damage to the implant and the surrounding gums.
But not all patients with rheumatoid arthritis are good candidates for dental implants. Through no fault of their own, many rheumatoid arthritis patients are not able to have dental implants because of the weak bone structure and deteriorating condition of the gums.
When determining if a rheumatoid arthritis patient can safely have dental implants, dentists need to examine the patient’s jaw bone density.If the patient has weak bone structure, which is common for RA patients given the disease affects bone density, the dental implants might not work as well as they should, if at all.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis might also require certain medications that could interfere with the surgery needed for dental implants. For instance, rheumatoid arthritis medications can prevent proper bone healing and the prescription medication known as methotrexate is a high-alert drug that promotes inflammation and tooth decay.
Dental implants require strong and healthy bone and tissue to be supported for years to come. The implant also requires specific care to prevent infection from settling into the gums. It should be noted that with successful dental implants, a rheumatoid arthritis patient must be vigilant in case the autoimmune disease worsens over time. A strong mouth now may quickly result in bone loss in the mouth and jaw, causing dental implants to become loose.
Your dentist will discuss your options with you during the consultation process and address any of your concerns.
Princeview Dental Provides Dental Implant Services
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, the friendly team at Princeview Dental Group can help you design a proper oral health plan that meets your unique needs.
Good oral health starts with regular checkups. Studies have shown that periodontal therapy helps to ease some rheumatoid arthritis symptoms while improving the oral health of patients. The two most common symptoms of swelling and joint tenderness were the focus of one such study.
Contact us today to discuss how our oral health therapies and treatments can help you better navigate rheumatoid arthritis. Or you can visit us in person—we are always accepting new patients. Please visit us at our new location under The Crooked Cue Pub and Restaurant at address, 3052 Bloor Street West, just west of Royal York Road on the north side.