The Importance of Dental Care for People with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the spine and other joints, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. AS can also affect other organs and systems, such as the eyes, skin, heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract.

However, one of the often overlooked aspects of AS is its impact on oral health. People with AS may have a higher risk of developing dental problems, such as tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, and oral infections. These problems can affect not only their oral function and appearance, but also their overall health and quality of life.

Therefore, it is important for people with AS to take good care of their teeth and gums and seek regular dental checkups and treatments. In this article, you will learn:

  • How AS can affect your oral health and why it matters
  • What are the common dental problems that people with AS may face and how to prevent them?
  • What are the best oral hygiene practices and dental products for people with AS?
  • How to find a dentist who understands your condition and needs?
  • How to cope with dental anxiety and pain if you have AS

By reading this article, you will understand why dental care is important for people with AS and how to maintain a healthy and beautiful smile.

How AS Can Affect Your Oral Health and Why It Matters

AS can affect your oral health in several ways, such as:

  • Causing inflammation and damage to your jaw joints (temporomandibular joints or TMJs), which can lead to pain, stiffness, clicking, locking, or reduced opening of your mouth. This can make it difficult for you to chew, speak, brush, floss, or visit the dentist.
  • Increasing your susceptibility to infections and inflammation in your mouth, due to a weakened immune system or the use of immunosuppressive medications. This can increase your risk of developing cavities, gum disease, oral thrush, or other oral complications.
  • Affecting your nutrition and hydration status, due to reduced appetite, difficulty swallowing, or gastrointestinal symptoms. This can affect your oral health by depriving your teeth and gums of essential nutrients and saliva. Saliva helps wash away food debris and bacteria from your mouth and neutralize acids that can erode your enamel.
  • Affecting your oral hygiene habits and dental care access, due to fatigue, depression, anxiety, or lack of motivation. This can affect your oral health by reducing your frequency and quality of brushing, flossing, rinsing, or visiting the dentist.

Oral health is important for people with AS because it can affect their overall health and well-being in several ways, such as:

  • Increasing their risk of developing systemic diseases or complications, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory infections, or osteoporosis. These diseases are linked to chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth that can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or airways.
  • Affecting their self-esteem and social interactions, due to poor oral function or appearance. This can affect their mental health by causing stress, anxiety, depression, or isolation.
  • Affecting their quality of life and satisfaction with treatment outcomes, due to pain, discomfort, or functional limitations in their mouth. This can affect their physical health by impairing their ability to eat, drink, speak, smile, or enjoy life.

Therefore, it is important for people with AS to pay attention to their oral health and seek professional dental care as part of their comprehensive management plan.

What are the Common Dental Problems that People with AS May Face and How to Prevent Them

People with AS may face some common dental problems that can affect their oral health and wellness. Some of these problems are:

Tooth decay:

Tooth decay is the damage or destruction of the hard outer layer of your teeth (enamel) by acids produced by bacteria in your mouth. Tooth decay can cause cavities (holes) in your teeth, which can lead to pain, sensitivity, infection, or tooth loss. Tooth decay can be prevented by:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Flossing daily to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth
  • Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash or using a fluoride gel or varnish to strengthen your enamel and prevent demineralization
  • Eating a balanced diet that is low in sugar and acidic foods and drinks
  • Drinking plenty of water to keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria and acids
  • Visiting your dentist every six months or as recommended for a checkup and cleaning

Gum disease:

Gum disease is the inflammation and infection of the tissues that support your teeth (gums and bone). Gum disease can be caused by plaque buildup, poor oral hygiene, smoking, or certain medications. Gum disease can cause bleeding, swelling, redness, or receding of your gums, which can expose your roots and make them sensitive. Gum disease can also cause bad breath, loose teeth, or tooth loss. Gum disease can be prevented by:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Flossing daily to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth and under your gums
  • Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash or using an antiseptic gel or spray to kill germs and reduce inflammation in your gums
  • Eating a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals that can boost your immune system and heal your gums
  • Quitting smoking or using other tobacco products that can damage your gums and increase your risk of infection
  • Visiting your dentist every six months or as recommended for a checkup and cleaning

Oral infections:

Oral infections are the invasion and multiplication of microorganisms in your mouth that can cause disease or harm. Oral infections can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites that can enter your mouth through cuts, sores, or dental procedures. Oral infections can cause pain, swelling, pus, fever, or difficulty swallowing. Oral infections can also spread to other parts of your body through the bloodstream or airways. Oral infections can be prevented by:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Flossing daily to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth
  • Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash or using an antiseptic gel or spray to kill germs and prevent infection in your mouth
  • Avoiding sharing utensils, cups, or toothbrushes with others who may have oral infections
  • Practicing safe sex and using condoms or dental dams to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can affect your mouth
  • Seeking immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of oral infection, such as pain, swelling, pus, fever, or difficulty swallowing

These are some of the common dental problems that people with AS may face and how to prevent them. However, there may be other dental problems that are specific to your condition or situation. Therefore, you should consult your dentist for a personalized diagnosis and treatment plan.

What are the Best Oral Hygiene Practices and Dental Products for People with AS

People with AS need to follow good oral hygiene practices and use the best dental products for their oral health and wellness. Good oral hygiene practices and dental products can help them prevent and treat dental problems, reduce pain and inflammation, and improve their oral function and appearance. Some of the best oral hygiene practices and dental products for people with AS are:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with an electric toothbrush and a natural toothpaste. An electric toothbrush can help you clean your teeth more effectively and gently, especially if you have limited mobility or dexterity in your hands or arms. A natural toothpaste can help you avoid synthetic chemicals or additives that can irritate your mouth or affect your overall health. You can choose a natural toothpaste that contains ingredients that can benefit your oral health, such as coconut oil, baking soda, activated charcoal, hydroxyapatite, xylitol, tea tree oil, or peppermint oil.
  • Flossing daily with a water flosser or an interdental brush. A water flosser or an interdental brush can help you remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth and under your gums, especially if you have difficulty using traditional dental floss. A water flosser or an interdental brush can also massage your gums and stimulate blood circulation, which can help heal inflammation and infection.
  • Rinsing with a natural mouthwash or a saltwater solution. A natural mouthwash or a saltwater solution can help you kill germs and reduce inflammation in your mouth, especially if you have oral infections or ulcers. A natural mouthwash or a saltwater solution can also soothe your mouth and throat, which can help you swallow easier. You can choose a natural mouthwash that contains ingredients that can benefit your oral health, such as xylitol, tea tree oil, neem oil, aloe vera, or peppermint oil.
  • Cleaning your tongue with a tongue scraper or a toothbrush. A tongue scraper or a toothbrush can help you remove bacteria, food debris, and dead cells from your tongue, which can cause bad breath, plaque formation, or oral infections. Cleaning your tongue can also improve your taste and appetite, which can help you eat better and enjoy your food more.
  • Using a humidifier or a nasal spray to keep your mouth moist. A humidifier or a nasal spray can help you keep your mouth moist and prevent dryness, which can cause irritation, cracking, or bleeding of your lips, tongue, or gums. A humidifier or a nasal spray can also help you breathe easier and prevent snoring, which can affect your sleep quality and health.
  • Using a bite guard or a splint to protect your jaw joints. A bite guard or a splint is a device that fits over your teeth and prevents them from touching each other. A bite guard or a splint can help you protect your jaw joints from damage or dislocation, especially if you have TMJ problems or grind your teeth at night. A bite guard or a splint can also help you reduce pain, stiffness, clicking, locking, or reduced opening of your mouth.

These are some of the best oral hygiene practices and dental products for people with AS. However, there may be other oral hygiene practices and dental products that are specific to your condition or situation. Therefore, you should consult your dentist for a personalized recommendation and guidance.

How to Find a Dentist Who Understands Your Condition and Needs

Finding a dentist who understands your condition and needs can be challenging, especially if you have AS. You may face some barriers or difficulties, such as:

  • Lack of awareness or knowledge about AS and its impact on oral health among dentists and dental staff
  • Lack of accessibility or accommodation for your physical or mental limitations in the dental office or equipment
  • Lack of communication or coordination between your dentist and your rheumatologist or other health care providers
  • Lack of insurance coverage or affordability for your dental care or treatments

Therefore, it is important for you to find a dentist who understands your condition and needs and can provide you with the best dental care possible. Here are some tips on how to find a dentist who understands your condition and needs:

  • Ask for recommendations from your rheumatologist, other health care providers, family, friends, or support groups who have AS or similar conditions. They may have some experience or insight on which dentists are familiar with AS and can cater to your needs.
  • Do some research online or offline on the dentists in your area who have experience or expertise in treating patients with AS or other inflammatory diseases. You can look for their credentials, reviews, ratings, testimonials, or portfolios to see their qualifications, reputation, feedback, or results.
  • Contact the dentists that you are interested in and ask them some questions about their practice, services, policies, and procedures. You can ask them about their knowledge and experience with AS and its impact on oral health, their accessibility and accommodation for your physical or mental limitations, their communication and coordination with your rheumatologist or other health care providers, and their insurance coverage or affordability for your dental care or treatments.
  • Schedule a consultation or a trial visit with the dentists that you are interested in and see how they interact with you and treat you. You can see how they examine your mouth, explain your diagnosis and treatment plan, answer your questions and concerns, listen to your feedback and preferences, and make you feel comfortable and confident.
  • Choose the dentist that you feel most comfortable and satisfied with and establish a long-term relationship with them. You can trust them to provide you with the best dental care possible and help you improve your oral health and wellness.

By following these tips, you can find a dentist who understands your condition and needs and can provide you with the best dental care possible. You can also enjoy a positive and productive dental experience that can enhance your quality of life.

How to Cope with Dental Anxiety and Pain if You Have AS

Dental anxiety and pain are common issues that many people face, especially if they have AS. Dental anxiety is the fear or nervousness of going to the dentist or receiving dental treatments. Dental pain is the discomfort or distress that you feel in your mouth or jaw due to dental problems or procedures. Dental anxiety and pain can affect your oral health and wellness by preventing you from seeking or receiving the dental care that you need. Therefore, it is important for you to cope with dental anxiety and pain if you have AS. Here are some tips on how to cope with dental anxiety and pain if you have AS:

Communicate with your dentist and dental staff.

You should inform your dentist and dental staff about your condition, needs, preferences, and concerns. You should also ask them any questions that you have about your diagnosis, treatment plan, procedure, or aftercare. You should also tell them if you feel any pain, discomfort, or anxiety during your visit. Communication can help you build trust and rapport with your dentist and dental staff, and help them provide you with the best dental care possible.

Use relaxation techniques and distraction methods.

You should use relaxation techniques and distraction methods to calm your nerves and reduce your stress before, during, and after your dental visit. Relaxation techniques can include deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery. Distraction methods can include listening to music, watching a video, reading a book, or playing a game. Relaxation techniques and distraction methods can help you focus on something positive and pleasant, rather than on your fear or pain.

Seek professional help or support.

You should seek professional help or support if your dental anxiety or pain is severe or interfering with your daily life. You can consult a psychologist, counselor, therapist, or support group who can help you understand and overcome your dental anxiety or pain. You can also seek help from your rheumatologist, family doctor, pharmacist, or other health care providers who can prescribe or recommend medications or treatments that can help you manage your dental anxiety or pain.

Use pain relief options and follow aftercare instructions.

You should use pain relief options and follow aftercare instructions to ease your pain and speed up your healing after your dental procedure. Pain relief options can include over-the-counter or prescription painkillers, anti-inflammatories, or topical gels or sprays that can numb your mouth or jaw. Aftercare instructions can include rinsing with saltwater or antiseptic solutions, applying ice packs or heat pads to your face or jaw, eating soft foods or liquids, avoiding smoking or alcohol, and resting well. Pain relief options and aftercare instructions can help you reduce inflammation, infection, swelling, bleeding, or bruising in your mouth or jaw.

These are some of the tips on how to cope with dental anxiety and pain if you have AS. However, there may be other tips that are specific to your condition or situation. Therefore, you should consult your dentist for a personalized advice and guidance.

Dental care is important for people with AS because it can affect their oral health and overall wellness in many ways. People with AS may have a higher risk of developing dental problems, such as tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, and oral infections. These problems can affect not only their oral function and appearance, but also their overall health and quality of life.

Therefore, it is important for people with AS to take good care of their teeth and gums and seek regular dental checkups and treatments. In this article, you learned:

  • How AS can affect your oral health and why it matters
  • What are the common dental problems that people with AS may face and how to prevent them
  • What are the best oral hygiene practices and dental products for people with AS
  • How to find a dentist who understands your condition and needs
  • How to cope with dental anxiety and pain if you have AS

By reading this article, you understood why dental care is important for people with AS and how to maintain a healthy and beautiful smile.

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