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link between dental infections and joint pain

Infections in the mouth can create bacteria that travel to other areas of the body, such as the joints. Bacteria in the mouth may also trigger an immune response in the body that may lead to conditions, such as arthritis, that cause joint pain.


Bacteria from dental infections may create an immune response in the body that may lead to the development of certain conditions that cause joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Bacteria in the mouth may also be able to enter the fluid around the joints by traveling through the bloodstream. In this article, we look at the link between dental infections and joint pain, along with treatments, prevention, and outlook.



Can a tooth infection cause joint pain?


According to the Arthritis Foundation, bacteria in the mouth from an infection or gum disease may trigger an immune response in the body. Bacteria in the mouth can create autoantibodies, which alter proteins in the body. This causes the body to perceive certain proteins in the joint lining as a threat and responds by creating antibodies to protect against the proteins. Bacteria may also enter the bloodstream and penetrate the synovial fluid, the thick liquid that cushions the joints. Researchers have identified oral bacteria in the synovial fluid in people with RA and osteoarthritis.



The connection between tooth infection and joint pain


Bacterial infections in the mouth, particularly a certain bacterium called Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (Aa), may link to the development of RA. Aa may cause atypical changes to white blood cells — the same abnormality that occurs in the joints of people with RA. Periodontitis is a disease affecting the gums and bone surrounding the teeth. In severe cases, it may lead to bone or tooth loss. Periodontitis may trigger an autoimmune response that can cause RA.


The early stages of RA can cause joint pain or tenderness. Other symptoms of RA include:

  • swelling or stiffness in the joints, lasting for 6 weeks or more

  • joint stiffness in the morning, which may last for 30 minutes or more

  • symptoms that occur in more than one joint

  • symptoms that usually appear first in smaller joints, such as the wrists, or joints in the hands or feet

  • symptoms occurring in the same joints on both sides of the body

  • fatigue

  • low grade fever

  • symptoms that may come and go


Treatment


Treatment for a tooth infection may include

  • draining an abscess

  • antibiotic treatment

  • pain-relief medications

  • treating any complications, such as fever or severe swelling

  • a root canal

  • a tooth extraction, if a dentist cannot save the tooth

Treatment for periodontitis may include:

  • maintaining good oral hygiene

  • attending regular checkups with a dentist with professional cleaning expertise

  • deep cleaning of the surfaces of the tooth roots, which sit below the gums

  • oral medications or medications under the gums

  • in some cases, corrective surgery


Prevention


A person can help prevent infections in the mouth and maintain good oral hygiene by following these tips:

  • Keeping to a regular teeth cleaning routine: People should brush their teeth for 2 minutes twice a day and floss between the teeth daily. If individuals have arthritis and find cleaning their teeth difficult, they can consider using an electric toothbrush and a pre-threaded flosser.

  • Using the correct toothpaste: If people have particular symptoms, such as a dry mouth, they can avoid using a toothpaste that is abrasive or whitening. They can choose a toothpaste that contains fluoride.

  • Use a mouth rinse: Using a mouth rinse that contains 0.05% sodium fluoride before sleeping may lower the risk of cavities.

  • Attending regular dental checkups: Make sure to consult a dentist at least once a year, ideally twice a year. This may need to be more frequent if a dentist recommends it.

  • Paying attention to any signs of infection: People will need to speak with their dentist if they have any signs of infection, such as swelling in the mouth or gums, swollen lymph nodes around the jaw, or a white coating on the tongue or inner cheeks.

  • Noticing signs of gum disease and seeking treatment: Puffiness, redness, or bleeding gums may be warning signs of gum disease. A dentist can carry out deep cleanings and apply antibiotics to treat gum disease and prevent it from progressing.


Outlook


With treatment, the outlook for dental infections can be positive. However, complications can be severe, so seeking a diagnosis early and receiving proper treatment is important. Delaying treatment may worsen the condition and may lead to tooth loss. Early treatment of periodontal disease is also important in improving outlook and preventing complications. People can control gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease, with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups. For more severe cases of periodontal disease, people may require more intensive treatments, which may successfully manage the condition.

Maintaining good oral hygiene may help to prevent mouth bacteria from developing and increasing the risk of developing joint pain or arthritis.


Summary


Bacterial infections in the mouth may have associations with joint pain conditions, such as RA. Bacteria in the mouth can trigger an immune response in the body that may lead to the development of RA. Bacteria may also travel through the bloodstream from the mouth to joint fluid or the joint lining. Maintaining good oral hygiene may help lower this risk. To maintain good oral hygiene, it is important that people brush and floss their teeth every day to remove bacteria that can cause infections and inflammation in the mouth. It is also important that people attend regular dental checkups at least once a year or more frequently if necessary.

If individuals experience any persistent joint pain or signs of arthritis, they will need to speak with a doctor to determine the underlying cause of symptoms.

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