Monster holding leash string attached to sad tooth

When the Tooth Fairy Becomes a Nightmare

I know rheumatoid arthritis is a global condition and affects my entire body, but somehow I am always surprised when something not-joint related happens. I say this in almost every article and you’re starting to think "Monica, YOU NEED TO GET YOUR HEAD EXAMINED." Well, let’s just say it's brain fog and call it a day.

Every time I think I get on top of my condition, a new erratic symptom pops up and throws me for a loop. This time, it’s my mouth. And, no, it’s not because it gets me in trouble (haha) but what’s inside it!

Good oral health prior to my RA diagnosis

Generally speaking, I’ve always had strong teeth and gums. When I was a kid, I had many of my baby teeth removed to help my adult ones grow in properly without over-crowding. I only had one cavity when I was 18 and no gingivitis insight.

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That all went for a toss when I was diagnosed with RA. Its full-body inflammatory tendencies wreaked havoc on my near-perfect mouth.

Factors that impacted my oral health

Sjogren’s syndrome

First, I contended with dryness, which was later diagnosed as Sjogren’s syndrome. Because of the dryness, I saw an increase in bacteria, which then caused more cavities than I can count.

At the present time, most of my teeth have fillings and I even have a gold cap! While my mouth issues have stabilized I know that as long as I have inflammation, my teeth will continue to disintegrate.

Inflammation or steroids?

Is it because of the inflammation or the steroids or just a combination of everything? I don’t know, but I do know I have very little control over it. The only thing I can do is manage my oral hygiene the best that I can.

How to practice good oral hygiene

So, here are the things I do to keep my mouth happy!

1. Brush my teeth…properly

That sounds like a no-brainer, right? And, I do brush 3 times a day. However, especially at night when I am tired, I don’t brush as thoroughly as I should. Bacteria are night owls and love the drier environment my mouth provides them. I best not make their jobs easier and clean my teeth properly!

2. I use a mouthwash twice a day

Many of my doctors recommended I use a moisturizing mouthwash to combat the dryness from Sjogren’s. However, these types of wash leave an unpleasant film in my mouth. I now just use a basic alcohol-free (this is important as alcohol is drying) mouthwash. This is a great extra step in protecting my mouth from those evil bacteria gremlins.

3. A tongue scraper

I was totally put off by the tongue scraper, citing “EW” as the reason. I had to get over that quickly when the prednisone started leaving a cute little film on my tongue that caused bad breath. My dentist told me that the film was bacteria and could only be scraped off with a tongue scraper. I started using one after I brushed and noticed a difference! I also seem to have full use of my taste buds again (added bonus)!

4. Avoid EXTRA sugar

I don’t cut out sugar entirely. But when I overeat it, I notice my gums get a little more inflamed and sensitive. Anyways, excess sugar causes inflammation and that’s a big no-no for rheumatoid disease!

5. Floss

This is something I really need to work on. According to my dentist, I, personally, need to do it nightly. I just don’t keep up with this and because it’s not a habit I just forget about it. However, I know that brushing alone does not remove food build up between the teeth so I better hop to the flossing.

6. Electric toothbrush

Even if I were completely able-bodied, I could not make a basic toothbrush oscillate as quickly as an electric one. It’s an expensive option but, in the long term, it beats having to pay for fillings and caps! Electric toothbrushes are much better at cleaning the surface of the teeth and moderately between them. Of course, check with your dentist as the electric option could bother already irritated gums!

Even with these tooth “hacks”, I am afraid my teeth will fall out and I know the tooth fairy won’t give me anything for them. But, hopefully, I can stave off her visit for a little while longer.

Does RA affect your teeth? What are your tips for good oral hygiene?

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