People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at increased risk of developing gum disease, with one study estimated that they are eight times more likely to develop it than the general population. At the same time, the pain caused by RA and the associated reduction in manual dexterity can make it extremely hard for patients to clean their teeth effectively. Failing to do so aggravates the problem, often leading to serious periodontitis and other difficulties.
Cleaning your teeth may always be a strain, but there are several ways in which you can make it easier.
Install a Dispenser
When you're suffering from RA, even squeezing toothpaste from the tube can feel uncomfortable. Instead, try installing a toothpaste dispenser. These can be fitted easily to bathroom walls, and can provide you with toothpaste at just the gentle touch of a button. They aren't even very expensive.
Use an Electric Toothbrush
Cleaning your teeth manually involves excessive manipulation of the toothbrush with your hands. This can be extremely uncomfortable, and is often ineffective. In contrast, electric toothbrushes have large handles which are easier to grasp, and their sonic action means that you won't need to brush as hard yourself.
Use Interdental Brushes
Flossing protects your gums, but the action can be even more uncomfortable than brushing. Luckily, you can use interdental brushes instead of floss to achieve the same effect without the discomfort. Similar to a standard toothbrush, but with a long, bristled end which easily slips between teeth, these make a fantastic alternative to traditional floss for people with RA.
See the Dentist More Frequently
This might seem obvious, but it's something that plenty of people with RA neglect to do. Obviously you should make an appointment as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms of gum disease—such as swollen or bleeding gums—but try not to let things get that far. Try seeing your dentist every three months instead of every six, and ask whether there are any prescription items such as special mouthwash or toothpaste to help the situation.
Avoid Dry Mouth
Dry mouth occurs when not enough saliva is present in the mouth, and is more likely to happen as you grow older. Saliva neutralises harmful bacteria and washes it away, so patients with RA should be especially vigilant against dry mouth. Try sipping water throughout the day to ensure a healthy level of saliva is maintained, or use sugar-free sweets.
Having RA can make dental care much harder, even as it becomes even more important. Follow this guide to make sure that your risk of gum disease is reduced and the pain of cleaning your teeth is lessened. For more tips, consult resources like Absolute Smiles.