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Oh, My Aching Teeth

Oh, My Aching Teeth

It would not be an exaggeration to say that my dental woes are on par with my RA issues. Now, how much one impacts the other is an age-old question. Honestly, I have had problems with my teeth from childhood so I am certain that I cannot attribute the fact I had a lot of crowns before my 21st birthday to RA since it did not rear its ugly head until my 40’s. That said, the fact that I have had over a dozen root canals, 5 implants (which involve extractions), TMJ and dry mouth may well be thanks to the RA. 

What is Sjogren’s syndrome?

Sjogren’s syndrome is quite common in folks with RA and is a strong contributor to mouth and gum issues. Sjogren’s is an autoimmune condition that is often a complication of another autoimmune disease, like RA. One of the most prevalent symptoms is dry mouth due to lack of saliva production.

This can lead to gum and dental complications that can be ongoing and challenging to contend with. I have been told by my dentist and oral surgeon over the years that many of my dental issues are directly connected to Sjogren’s and RA.

Dental issues due to RA and Sjogren’s

What is idiopathic tooth pain?

I developed a condition called idiopathic tooth pain or atypical odontalgia. This means I have pain in a tooth that has no direct relationship to a traceable tooth problem. Despite having a root canal in the tooth and no abscess, infection, cavity or gum disease, I have pain in a tooth that comes and goes on a regular basis. Kind of like an RA flare in my tooth! I have had hours of work on it by dental specialists and they all now agree on the diagnosis. 

Atypical odontalgia is akin to phantom limb syndrome in an amputee. In the same way one may experience pain in a limb that has been amputated, people who have atypical odontalgia feel pain in a perfectly healthy tooth, even one that has been extracted. I was shocked to hear this condition existed, only to discover it can go along with the tooth issues associated with Sjogren’s syndrome.

I have had dry mouth, TMJ and gum discomfort for years and when I think back, I can trace the start of it to within a few years of manifesting RA.

How I manage the tooth pain

Lozenges for mouth dryness

So with all of that said, how do we handle this? Well, I utilize several strategies. First, to relieve the almost non-stop dryness, I have lozenges suggested to me by my dentist that are available OTC at any drugstore in the same section as a mouthwash. They work really well and do give me relief. 

Limit substances that lead to mouth dryness

In addition, limiting beverages that dry the mouth, like excess alcohol, is helpful. A number of mouthwashes have alcohol so be sure to get one that does not have it. That goes for toothpaste as well. 

Schedule regular dentist visits

I also see my dentist at least every 6 months, although I am there more often than that most of the time! Having professionals check on your gums and teeth is crucial to maintaining dental hygiene. It is important that your dentist be aware of your RA and the medications you take. All of that gives them a more complete picture to work with in suggesting treatment.

Sjogren’s is a tricky condition but with careful and consistent collaboration with your dental care team and your RA care team you can manage it.  I continue to hope that my dental woes will lessen as I learn how to more effectively treat them.  I will keep that thought.

Nan

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Mkbutler39
    2 weeks ago

    What a timely article. Thank you. My teeth have been aching so badly. I’m used to TMJ pain and RA after being diagnosed years ago. My teeth are a whole new thing and never related it to my other issues. Now I know why the dentist didn’t find anything!

  • christine.laaksonen moderator
    2 weeks ago

    You are definitely not alone, @mkbutler39. Many in our community have also experienced the tooth pain with no known cause found by the dentist.

    My heart goes out to you. Tooth pain and aches can be so miserable! It is amazing how RA seems to be able to pop up anywhere. I hope some of Nan’s tips can help you find some relief! Thank you for commenting.

    — Christine (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member)

  • saradavis37
    8 months ago

    I also have RA and Sjogrens. I find that when I expose myself to certain foods is when I have tooth and jawbone pain. I have three root canals and some crowns, including one root canal that needs to be redone as one dentist told me the root is too small to be accessible without special tools with another root being calcified.

  • harleyharlot
    9 months ago

    I lost 2 molars already. I did find the lozenges helpful. I got them at the homeopathic drug store.

  • mylady13
    9 months ago

    Wait is this RA too?????? My teeth have been killing me and I thought it was the toothpaste!

  • Richard Faust moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi mylady13. Sorry you are having these teeth issues. Thought you might be interested in this article from one of our other contributors on protecting yourself against periodontal disease: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/oral-hygiene-protect-yourself-against-periodontal-disease/. Wishing you some relief. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • mylady13
    9 months ago

    Thank you Richard.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    9 months ago

    I am glad you have a good work around. Dry mouth is a terrible outcome of Sjogren’s. I will refer some of my friends who have the same teeth pain issues.

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