Brushing your teeth, buttoning your shirt, or opening a child proof bottle are all routine daily activities that most people take for granted. But if you have arthritis and it affects your hands, performing these and other basic tasks can be challenging, if not impossible. Theoretically, “exercising” your hands should reduce the pain, improve your range of motion, and, ultimately, enable you to perform more easily the various tasks of daily living. However, early in the morning use of your hands may aggravate your situation and brushing your teeth may be a chore.
Arthritis of the hands manifests differently depending on what kind of arthritis you have. Osteoarthritis, which is the most common cause of hand arthritis, involves the protective cartilage that covers the ends of your bones and its gradual deteriorates is due to wear and tear or, in some cases, to injury. If your hand pain is caused by osteoarthritis there’s a high probability that flossing and brushing your teeth may be affected.
By contrast, rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes referred to as RA, is an immune system disorder that damages the cells in the tissue that lines and lubricates the joints in your hand. If rheumatoid arthritis is the cause of your hand pain, the distinction between osteoarthritis – and rheumatoid arthritis -induced hand pain is important for several reasons*:
First, if your pain is caused by rheumatoid, you should not attempt to alleviate it with exercise alone. So the exercise associated with brushing your teeth could exacerbate your joint problems. Second, strengthening exercises can be harmful if performed aggressively and should be done in moderation by people with rheumatoid arthritis. Third, you should perform any type of exercise with caution while you’re having a flare up of the joints.
So that your oral health does not suffer due to the deterioration and pain associated with either arthritis I would suggest the purchase an electric toothbrush. It really doesn’t matter which one you use, you just need to use one. Regardless of your condition, my experience with patients who use electric toothbrushes regularly has shown results in the positive care of their oral health.
With respect to flossing, which is just as important in maintaining your oral hygiene, you may need to increase the number of visits to the dentist to clean your teeth where you can’t otherwise preform the task. If you discuss this with your dentist, you should be able to make arrangements just to have your teeth cleaned on alternating appointments and forego unnecessary exam fees. Interestingly enough, there is a possibility that the prescription by your physician may afford you insurance coverage for the extra visits. As a side note, if you utilize a health savings account, you certainly should be about to cover the costs of all your visits with pre-tax health dollars. If there is anything we can do to assist you, please do not hesitate to contact us.
*This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Some of this information was provided by Johns Hopkins website on arthritis. (http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com).
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
ZoAnna Scheinfeld, MS, DMD
Hanna Orland, DMD
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
- Dentist Sandy Springs – 4 Steps to Promoting Good Oral Health (therightsmile.wordpress.com)
- Managing Symptoms of Arthritis in Your Hands (everydayhealth.com)
- What are the early warning signs of arthritis? (zocdoc.com)
- Is It Rheumatoid Arthritis? (everydayhealth.com)