Show me your teeth!


I’ve always had pretty good teeth.  <knock on wood.> The picture above is from last May…where at the age of 35, I finally got my first cavity.

The amusement I had over numb, crazy mouth selfies definitely made up for my laughing gas request being denied. 

While I may not post as often as I should, I am constantly reading other blogs and various health publications.  In some ways, it’s a great thing.  I learn so much! In other ways, it is a terrible terrible thing because I self diagnose with the worst case scenario, work myself up into a tizzy, and in at least this most recent case, avoid getting something looked at for awhile because ***if the doctor doesn’t say it’s an issue, then it is not yet real. ***

Because, you know, good logic.  So rational.  

So what happened?

I’ve read a lot about the relationship between RA and dental issues.  Instead of trying to explain the technicalities, know that there seems to be a pretty strong relationship and follow the below links that are actually scholarly or at the very least peer reviewed.

So…a few months ago, I noticed that my upper left gums were swollen.  I thought nothing of it…as this happened once before and when I went to the dentist, I was diagnosed with eating pizza that was too hot.  

Seriously.  The dentist laughed and said ‘honey, you must have been starving. Let your food cool down some!’

I let it go because I figured I had simply burnt myself again.  It went away after a few days.  And then it came back.  Away. Back. Away. Back.  

On round 3, I finally took a good look in my mouth with a mirror and FREAKED out.  Part of my left gum had receded and was ‘clefted.’

I immediately thought to my reading.  I also thought of my friend who recently had a gum graft that she best described as ‘agony.’

I stupidly thought to myself that I should just avoid it.  I didn’t want to admit that RA was wreaking havoc on a new place.  I certainly didn’t want to have a painful procedure.  And if it doesn’t hurt, then why address it?

I know. The stupid stings!

Fast forward to this past Tuesday.  I bit funny into a carrot and lost a filling in the other side of my mouth.  There was no way I could not address that, so off to the dentist I went.

Not only were they able to fix the tooth, they were able to squeeze in a cleaning as well as examine the gum recession.

The verdict: my gun recession is NOT RA related.  It is very much the result of aggressive brushing with stiff bristles and not helped by nighttime teeth grinding.  

I can’t control or make excuses for the grinding but I stand by rough brushing: this gal likes to be clean!

While I probably won’t have the gum ‘un-recess,’ the remaining tissue is thick and healthy. No need to refer to a periodontist at this time and certainly no need for a gum graft. Switching to a soft bristle toothbrush, being less forceful with brushing, and wearing an oh-so-sexy mouth guard at night should keep it from progressing. 

Moral here? There are several.

1. Don’t assume that RA causes everything.

2. Don’t put off something that should be looked at because you’re afraid of the answer.

3. Dental care is very important, especially for RA patients.

4. I realized that I haven’t seen many articles or blogs discussing RA dental care.  

5. Even though my issues wound up not being RA related, this is yet another aspect of the patient experience we should at least be aware of.

To maintain continued gum health as well as to address some tartar issues, my dentist has recommended a periodontal cleaning where they numb you up and clean below the gum line.  This would mean that all future cleanings would be a bit different read: more invasive and more expensive.

I’m considering it as it’s nice to feel proactive for once about health vs reactive.

What do you think? Anyone else have experience with this type of cleaning? I’d love to hear your experiences!

12 responses »

  1. I literally have had the exact same fears!! My gums receded along certain teeth – the teeth where I have the best angle with my hand to brush the hardest. I was terrified it was due to my medication, but both my rheumatologist and dentist said it was due to rough brushing. But it feels so wrong to gently brush my teeth! I’m working on it, since I definitely would rather brush lighter than get a gum graft.
    Sorry to hear about your first cavity – I’m 21 and have never had one. Maybe I will in my thirties, too!

  2. I had the same experience! My gums were receding along certain teeth and I panicked, thinking it was a side effect of my arthritis medication. Turns out, the teeth that had receding gums were the teeth I could brush the hardest because of the angle my hand can get at. Both my rheumatologist and dentist told me to brush softer, which is surprisingly difficult to do because I want to get my teeth as clean as possible! But I’d rather brush more gently than get a gum graft.
    Sorry about your first cavity – I’m 21 and I’ve never gotten one before, either. Maybe I will in my thirties 🙂

  3. I’ve had arthritis for 15 years and never thought about dental problems even possibly being related to my RA. Eye problems yes, dental problems no. Guess I’ll have to start researching and talking to my doctors.

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  5. I go for a deep cleaning on Monday like the one you’re describing. I’ll let you know how it goes and if I find any tips for having them stop being so stingy with the laughing gas. 😉

  6. Diagnosed with the same thing! I brush too hard and have receding gums on on both sides of my mouth. I bought a soft bristle electric toothbrush so I can’t blame myself anymore.

  7. Snice my diagnosis of RA my teeth have suffered greatly. I have been told you have RA in your Jaw. WHAT! Not there I said. Then another Dentist said no its nor RA but old age. Lol ok I’m 52 guys. Lol gotta smile and go on.

  8. I have RA in my jaw.Not only does it occasionally hurt but sometimes gets stuck in a gaping posture.forceful closing is sometimes the only way to meet this problem! lol. When my RA is at an active stage,it hurts to eat and even to talk.

  9. I was told that RA affects tooth health by way of ,when joints hurt we find ourselves minimizing any and all movement that exacerbates the inflamed joints.Sometimes the simple act of just holding a toothbrush in my hand,much less gripping while applying pressure,and vigorously scrubbing after every meal can be the most exquisite torture known to me.I can certainly

  10. Part 2- I hit the post button before I could finish my thought,apologies!
    I can certainly see how RA has had a detrimental effect on my dental healthcare.As for direct affects,I frequently have had jaw joint pain and an effect on my mobility while chewing and talking.

  11. As for the hard brushing, use the best equipment money can buy. Sonicare is absolutely the best equipment money can buy. You may have a little trouble getting used to the tickles in your mouth, but they will go away, trust me. Your mouth will feel like you just went to the dentist and had a cleaning. And thjose receding gums will go away. Don’t forget to angle at 45º to the gum line as theat is where the bacteria like to create gum disease.

  12. Pingback: The Best Arthritis Blogs for 2016 -

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