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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Oral Health | United Concordia

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Your Oral Health

People with Rheumatoid Arthritis are 8 times more likely to have gum disease

The Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease that causes swollen, painful joints. The number of joints affected varies, but most people have arthritis in five or more areas.1

The most common joints affected are in the hands, wrists and feet. Many people experience stiffness in their shoulder, elbow, knee and ankle joints. Arthritis can also damage your jaw joint, making it difficult to open and close your mouth.

Sore hands or a stiff jaw can make it tough to brush and floss properly. Sticky plaque and bacteria can build up on your teeth and cause gum disease, which may fuel inflammation in the joints.2 The medicines you take to reduce pain and swelling can also cause oral complications.


Treating Gum Disease may help Your RA

Untreated gum disease can lead to periodontitis, a serious condition that destroys the bone that support your teeth. With periodontitis, your gums get infected with harmful bacteria that doesn’t just stay in your mouth. It travels through your bloodstream, impacting your whole body – including your joints.

But people who get professional treatment for their gum disease can have significantly less pain and stiffness and fewer swollen, painful joints.2 Treatment typically consists of deep cleaning called “scaling and root planing,” which removes bacteria from tooth surfaces and root surfaces underneath the gum line.


Other Oral Complications from RA


Known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, TMD causes pain in the joints and muscles on one or both sides of your jaw. If you have TMD, your dentist may recommend a bite guard to wear at night to reduce your symptoms in addition to other possible treatment.

Sjögren’s Syndrome

Many RA patients also have Sjögren’s syndrome, a condition that decreases the amount of saliva your glands produce, causing a dry mouth. Your saliva actually has an important job – it washes food from your teeth and gums. Without enough saliva, you’re prone to cavities and other infections.

Increased Infections

Most immunosuppressant drugs taken to reduce joint inflammation also weaken your immune system’s ability to fight infection. So watch for early signs of infection, especially in your mouth. Look for red or swollen gums, spots inside your lips or cheeks, and painful or loose teeth. If you notice any of these symptoms, let your dentist know as soon as possible so you can get treatment.

Ulcers and Canker Sores

Mouth ulcers are sores on the soft tissues in your mouth. Ulcers typically appear inside your lips or cheeks, or on your tongue. They may appear red, yellow or pale in color and may also bleed. Without treatment, these open sores can get infected. If you experience ulcers or canker sores, ask your physician about taking a folic acid supplement as it may help reduce your ulcers.


Good Oral Health at Home

  • Brush at least twice a day and floss once a day.
  • Make your toothbrush easier to hold. Create a larger gripping surface by wrapping the handle with tape or other material.
  • Traditional floss may be difficult to use, so consider floss holders or floss picks.
  • If you have dry mouth, keep your mouth moist by sipping water, chewing sugarless gum or using an oral rinse. Your dentist can recommend the right product for your condition.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco, and don’t drink alcohol excessively.
  • Check your mouth regularly for signs of gum disease or other problems. If you notice unusual issues such as bleeding or sore gums, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible before infection sets in.
  • Don’t skip your dental exams. Visit your dentist for regular checkups. Your dentist may recommend more frequent visits to help keep your mouth healthy.



1. Rheumatoid Arthritis Signs and Symptoms; Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center; August 2017

2. Treat Gum Disease to Relieve RA Pain and Stiffness; Arthritis Foundation