This is a collaborative post.
As we get older, we accept things we shouldn’t, like more aches and pains. But joint pain is an indication of arthritis and should not be ignored. There are various reasons why you might suffer from aching joints or reduced mobility, and research indicates that gum disease could be one of them.
Your mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria which can trigger immune responses to pain and stiffness due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Researchers at the Arthritis Foundation found oral bacteria in the synovial fluid (liquid located between the joints) in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Numerous other studies have also shown a link between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, increased bleeding and receding gums, and loss of teeth. One study showed that of people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, 65% had gum disease, compared with 28% of people who did not have rheumatoid arthritis. The study also found that if you have rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease, it is usually worse. Consequently, there could also be a higher risk of tooth loss.
Gareth Edwards, BDS, principal dentist and co-owner of Smile Stories dental Clinic in Bournemouth, gave us his advice about the prevention and treatment of gum disease.
“Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and has also been linked to many health risks, including heart disease. Bleeding gums may not seem serious, but preventing the progression of gum disease and gum recession is the best way to prevent tooth loss.”
Seven Signs of Periodontitis (Gum Disease)
1. Red or puffy and bleeding gums
2. Receding gums that can easily be pulled away from the teeth
3. Teeth seem to look longer due to gum recession
4. Increased sensitivity to heat and cold when eating and drinking
5. Bad breath within a short time after brushing and flossing teeth
6. Loose and wobbly teeth
7. Aching and stiff joints.
Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Aching joints are just one sign of rheumatoid arthritis. Other signs include:
- Swollen joints
- Loss of mobility and joint stiffness
- Pain in your wrists, hands or feet
It is also worth keeping a diary of your symptoms and bearing in mind that symptoms may come and go. When symptoms are present for more than six weeks, visit your GP, early diagnosis and treatment of arthritis can significantly reduce pain and prevent future joint deformity.
How is Gum Disease Treated?
If you have any signs of gum disease, do not ignore them. The best thing you can do is book a hygienist visit. A hygienist will remove hardened plaque and will assess how severe your gum disease is. You may need to take antibiotics, or severe gum disease may require dental surgery, called a gingivectomy, to cut away some of the gum line or gum grafts.
Can You Reverse Gingivitis?
When the signs of gum disease are minimal and have only recently begun, there are things you can do to reverse gingivitis (mild gum disease).
Invest in an electric toothbrush. They are more effective at removing plaque and are gentler on your gums. Brush for two minutes, at least twice a day, morning and before bed. And if you can, try to brush your teeth after lunch.
Floss twice a day before brushing your teeth. If you hate string floss, try floss tape or floss pics, or buy a water flosser, often referred to as a water pic.
Rinsing with salt water may help as salt is a natural disinfectant. However, swish the salt water around your mouth and spit it out. Only do this for a couple of days in a row, as salt can erode tooth enamel, leading to cavities.
How Often Should I Have a Dental Checkup?
This will depend on the health of your gums and teeth. A dental checkup every six months is recommended if you have healthy gums and no signs of tooth decay or cavities. Additionally, where there are signs of gum disease, you will typically visit a hygienist every three months until advised it is no longer required.