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dental health | May 30, 2024 | 8 min read

The Arthritis Connection: Can Smarter Brushing Reduce Joint Pain?

Essential Takeaways

  • There's a strong connection between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and oral health. People with RA are more likely to have gum disease and vice versa.
  • Taking care of your oral health through regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits might help prevent RA and improve your overall health.
You might be shocked to learn there’s a link between rheumatoid arthritis and oral health. This relationship has been emerging for more than 2,000 years; centuries ago, Hippocrates suggested pulling out teeth was a cure for arthritis.

Luckily, we know more now than ever before about the connection between oral health and arthritis. In this post, we’ll break down the evidence that suggests a complex linkage between them.

RA and oral health: Studies and findings

Before we discuss the relationship between RA and your mouth, let’s review some of the statistical evidence that’s leading rheumatologists and dentists to advocate for better oral care practices:

The mouth’s role in rheumatoid arthritis

How rheumatoid arthritis starts is still a topic of discussion in the medical community, but evidence strongly suggests that, while the condition impacts the joints, it does not start there. Counterintuitively, it’s largely believed that RA begins in other parts of the body and through the formation of autoantibodies — misguided antibodies that mistakenly attack the body’s own cells, organs, or tissue. These autoantibodies can cause organ dysfunction, inflammation, and disease.

Autoantibodies are known to be created throughout the body in places like the digestive system and lungs; the mouth is also particularly good at creating them as the P. gingivalis (the bacteria that causes gingivitis and an oral microbe linked to arthritis) alters proteins in the body that the body perceives as a threat, thus spurring the creation of autoantibodies.

Treating gum disease can alleviate RA severity

One significant study points to a cause-and-effect relationship between oral health and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Researchers studied forty individuals with both moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis and severe periodontitis (gum disease). Twenty individuals were assigned to receive treatment for their gum disease (namely through routine oral hygiene) and twenty were the control group and did not receive treatment. The study concluded that the oral health therapy led to a significant beneficial effect on both the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis can worsen oral health issues

Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis can cause problems with salivary glands that result in dry mouth for 30% to 50% of people with RA. Saliva has a host of important functions in the body: It protects teeth from decay, helps heal wounds in the mouth, and wards off gum disease. Without enough saliva, individuals are at higher risk of oral health issues like gum disease, decay, and infection.

Oral health as an arthritis prevention pathway

The amount of evidence that suggests a relationship between rheumatoid and oral care is overwhelming, and more and more it’s looking like a two-way street whereby oral health issues can trigger RA and RA can worsen oral health issues.

If what this evidence suggests is true, caring for your teeth and gums has never been more important. The simple daily acts of brushing and flossing — and twice-annual dental visits — could help ward off rheumatoid arthritis (and dozens of other crippling and deadly diseases).

Turn habits into rituals

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Meet the Author

Kenny Brown

We founded Feno to revolutionize dental care, understanding the vital connection between oral and overall health. Our tech driven products offer more than superb cleaning—they give you routine & insightful health monitoring to help improve your overall health.

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