The link between rheumatoid arthritis and oral health

Man gripping hand affected by RA.

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), your oral health is at risk. Both RA and gum disease are linked to severe inflammation, which is your body’s natural immune response to prevent foreign bodies like viruses and bacteria. Because RA is an autoimmune disease, inflammation is triggered despite there being no foreign bodies present. Improving your dental care could play a role in reducing the effects of RA.

The effects of RA

Your oral health can become compromised if you neglect the signs and symptoms of RA. Including serious health complications, RA can cause you to develop serious oral conditions, such as:

  • Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that causes swollen and tender gums.
  • Periodontitis, an inflammatory condition affecting the bone and tissue supporting the teeth.
  • Sjögren’s syndrome, an inflammatory condition that affects the salivary glands causing oral dryness, difficulty eating, and tooth decay.
  • Loss of motion in the temporomandibular joint: RA can cause serious pain when opening and closing your mouth.
  • Oral infections, such as bacterial infections and fungal infections.

How to alleviate the symptoms

In a 2009 study, researchers at Case Western University found that when people with severe RA treated their gum disease, the side effects of RA greatly improved. You can stay on top of your oral health by brushing and flossing regularly and avoiding tobacco products. Be sure to see your dentist regularly and inform him or her about your RA and any new oral health issues.

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Published: July 2017
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