I just left my dentist’s office. After my third visit in the past six weeks, my dental hygienist finally gave me the thumbs up, and declared this cleaning to be over. When I first moved here to my little corner of South America, I was amazed that one procedure didn’t necessarily correspond to one visit; I’ve had previous cleanings that were done over a period of five sessions, and I even had one root canal that took six (one-hour!) sessions to complete. I still remember asking, nervously, how much all of this was costing me. When they told me that it wasn’t costing anything extra, that their goal was to complete each procedure until they achieved the desired results–no matter how long it took–they saw the confused look on my face, and chuckled. They were dumbfounded by my suggestion that I was being charged per visit, and asked me if anyone really charges patients in such a manner. (At that point, as I looked back on all of my medical visits while living in the United States, it was my turn to chuckle!)
Just a couple of days ago, I realized that I had not had a major flare in the past month. Of course, I stopped to wonder what, if anything, was different during the past few weeks. It’s certainly not the meds, as I’ve not taken any since early this year. The weather here in the southern hemisphere is turning warmer as we move into summer; while I know this helps we’ve also had our share of cold, rainy days during the month of November. My diet is unchanged, as are my exercise levels. The only thing that I could think of was all of this dental work that I’ve had done recently; to further bolster this theory is the fact that the exact same thing happened a couple of years ago: after what was then months of dental work (including the above-mentioned root canal,) I had an extended period where my RA symptoms were much lower than usual.
Might there be a connection between dental health and rheumatoid arthritis activity? Even though I haven’t read any of the reports in detail, over the past few years I have seen multiple headlines which referred to a connection between the two. And during the most recent Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, I did see many Tweets which talked about studies associated with periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
My dentist and my dental hygienist both know that I live with RA, and know that when I say that it’s sometimes just too painful to brush and floss, that I’m not just making up excuses. They tell me that my chronic illness is one of the reasons why they want to ensure that I achieve the best possible results during each one of my procedures. “A person’s gums are a window into a person’s immune system,” they told me during my previous visit. I had never heard such a thing…but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.
So I’m curious: has anyone else noticed a connection between their dental health and their autoimmune arthritis activity?
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!