Oral health and arthritis are closely linked, with periodontal disease acting as both a trigger for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and exacerbating its inflammation. Sjögren’s syndrome is likely to also result in periodontal diseases and tooth decay due to reduced salivary flow and adhesion of nutrients to the gums and dental surfaces.   

Periodontal disease 

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease triggered by a film of bacteria that can develop on your teeth and gums and is a potential trigger for RA. Periodontal disease can also make RA inflammation worse.  

The bacterial growth and resulting inflammation can also lead to heart disease which can be a serious complication with RA. Other oral health problems associated with RA include bone loss, which can loosen teeth. Keeping your mouth healthy has the triple benefit of reducing a trigger of RA inflammation, reducing your risk of RA-associated heart problems and increasing the likelihood that your loved one will lean in for a smooch.  

As mentioned above, Sjögren’s syndrome is likely to also result in periodontal diseases and tooth decay due to reduced salivary flow and adhesion of nutrients to the gums and dental surfaces. 

Salivary glands 

Autoimmune conditions like RA and Sjögren’s syndrome are also common causes of problems with your salivary glands. Some RA medications like NSAIDs can also cause the saliva glands in your mouth to dry out. Dry mouth, as a result of these problems, can eventually lead to tooth decay.  

Good dental hygiene for people with arthritis 

If you have RA, it’s more important than ever to prevent infections and other forms of inflammation in your mouth. Good dental hygiene and regular dental check-ups are key to ensuring oral health does not lead to increased problems with RA.  

Practising dental hygiene can be difficult for some people with RA due to inflammation and joint damage in hands and wrists or inflammation in the jaw. A visit to a dental hygienist can help with tips and tools to make this easier.  

While people must pay for most dental care in Aotearoa, there are some limited options provided by public hospitals for people with specific disabilities, and special needs grants are available for people on very low incomes who require emergency dental treatment. 

Arthritis NZ fully supports The New Zealand Dental Association’s message to switch to water to reduce the consumption of drinks that increase the risk of dental decay and gum disease.  

More information on special needs grants – Special Needs Grant – Work and Income



Shaimaa Salah, Nevin Hammam, Mohamed Raouf Abdel Razek, Nadia M. Ismail, Ahmed Mortada Fikry, Wageeh A. Ali, Essam A. Abda, Association between periodontitis and cardiovascular health in rheumatoid arthritis patients: Prospective effect of periodontal treatment on cardiovascular risk, The Egyptian Rheumatologist, Volume 45, Issue 3, 2023, Pages 255-260, ISSN 1110-1164, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejr.2023.05.001. 




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