Bacteria cause cavities and gum diseases! The germs can infect joint replacements or other parts of the body, especially when resistance to infection is reduced by certain rheumatoid arthritis drugs.
If you are taking RA drugs like Humira, you have probably heard the advice, “tell your doctor if you have any infections.” While you may not have thought to mention dental cavities or sore puffy gums, these are actually infections caused by bacteria. To avoid serious complications, cavities and gum diseases should be treated, and ideally prevented with good oral hygiene.
Many medications can cause a dry mouth. And some people with RA can develop Sjogren’s Syndrome, another disease that can cause a “dry mouth” by reducing our ability to produce saliva. Because saliva helps prevent cavities and gum diseases, a “dry mouth” encourages development of those problems. Ask your dentist if a high-concentration fluoride toothpaste or fluoride rinse would be useful, as well as an “artificial saliva” product. Avoid alcohol-containing rinses as they can be irritating.
If you have had a joint replacement, excellent dental health and oral hygiene is particularly important. If the bacteria causing dental infections get into the blood stream, they can attach to your artificial hip, knee, or other joint replacement. Treating an infected device can require massive doses of antibiotics, and possibly even surgery to replace it, followed by more physical therapy.
All dental infections should be treated before any joint replacement surgery. Ask your orthopedic surgeon and dentist if regular, non-emergency dental appointments, including cleanings, should be postponed for a few months following joint replacement surgery.
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