People With RA More Likely to Have Gum Disease

As health professionals and consumers observe Arthritis Awareness Month in May, dental professions remind patients and caregivers to be aware of the link between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Studies have shown that people with RA are more likely to have periodontal disease compared to those who don’t have the chronic inflammatory disease of the joints. A 2008 study reported in the Journal of Periodontology showed that RA patients were almost eight times more likely to have periodontal disease. Because RA is a debilitating disease that can compromise patients’ manual dexterity, some individuals might not be able to maintain good oral hygiene. The study found that although oral hygiene was a factor, it did not fully explain the association between the two diseases.

Study authors noted that both RA and periodontal disease are systemic inflammatory disorders, which may explain the connection between the two and that results indicate the need for a close collaboration among physicians, dentists, and dental hygienists when treating patients with RA.

A 2009 study found that patients with severe RA and periodontal disease had less arthritic pain, a reduced number of swollen joints and less morning stiffness when their dental problems were treated. People with arthritis who experience difficulties in caring for their teeth have some options. They should visit the dentist regularly to keep their mouths healthy. Power toothbrushes, oral irrigators, dental floss holders and prescription mouth rinses—products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance—might be appropriate tools for those with limited manual dexterity. For more details on products, view the For the Dental Patient guide to buying oral care products.

OralLongevity, an initiative designed to increase awareness about the oral health needs of older Americans, offers educational materials that explore the link between oral health and general health and discuss ways to keep teeth for life. Consumers can request brochure and educational DVD that is formatted in searchable chapters on a variety of oral health topics, including the effect of diabetes, arthritis and medications on oral health. Visit ( for more details.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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