Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gum Disease

Researchers continue to find links between gum disease (periodontitis) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Periodontitis is an infection in your gums that destroys the structures supporting your teeth. Symptoms of periodontitis include loose teeth and gums that are red, swollen, and bleed easily. RA may lead to periodontitis:

• If RA makes your hands stiff and painful, you may have trouble brushing and flossing properly. Good
oral hygiene is necessary to prevent plaque buildup.
• Some medications used to treat RA may lower your ability to fight off infection, which may lead to
more plaque-causing bacteria.
• RA may affect your salivary glands and cause your mouth to be too dry. Saliva helps protect your
mouth from bacteria and plaque buildup.

Doctors think that RA is caused by a combination of the genes you’re born with and events in your life that trigger those genes to become active. Periodontitis may be one of those triggers.

What You Can Do to Prevent or Control Periodontitis

Although we still need more research on the links between periodontitis and RA, good oral health is especially important if you have RA. If RA symptoms are keeping you from brushing or flossing properly, talk to your dentist. You may need to have your teeth professionally cleaned more often, rinse with special mouthwashes, or get routine laser gum therapy. Furthermore, repair or straighten hard-to-clean, crooked teeth in order to control periodontitis.