Oral Health

Introduction 

The mouth plays an important role in the functioning of the human body; teeth chew food into smaller pieces to make it more digestible and saliva contains enzymes which further break down food. Saliva also helps prevent infections and is required for swallowing.

Teeth are held in place in the jaw bone by support from the surrounding gums and ligaments (fibrous tissue), making gum health very important too. From an appearance point of view, having a nice smile can boost a person’s confidence.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can experience problems with their mouths. Some are directly related to RA such as gum disease, jaw problems and dry mouth (i.e. lack of saliva) and some are indirectly related to RA; being a result of RA medication or caused by difficulty with cleaning the mouth (due to problems with other joints). This will not be a problem for all people with RA, but it may be helpful to be aware of these potential problems, so that you know what to look out for and what you might want to discuss with your dentist.

Dentists, dental therapists and dental hygienists can help with assessing and treating mouth problems as well as giving advice on how to keep your mouth healthy.

This section will cover the following topics which you can go directly to by clicking on the heading:

Gum disease

Jaw problems

Dry mouth

RA medication and the mouth

Smoking

Cleaning advice and tips

Visiting the Dentist

Information for dental care professionals (Links through to article published in BDJ)

Further reading/useful links

 

By Rupinder K. Bansal BDS (Hons) [Dentist], Miranda Steeples BSc (Hons) [Dental Hygienist-Therapist] and Savia de Souza BSc (Hons) BDS [Patient Insight Partner, Arthritis Research UK]

Oral Health section originally written: 13/03/2015 
Reviewed: 08/05/2018
Next review due: 08/05/2021 

References available on request

Acknowledgements 

We are grateful to Dr James Galloway (Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist), Dr Heidi Lempp (Senior Lecturer) and Patient Experts Dr Ruth Williams, Ms Carol Simpson and Mrs Patricia Rusling from the Academic & Clinical Rheumatology Departments at King’s College London and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; and to Miss Judy Caesley (Tutor Dental Hygienist and Patient Partner in Rheumatology) from the University of Bristol and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust for reading through the content and providing valuable feedback. 

Thank you also to Dr Sophia Georgopoulou (Postdoctoral Research Associate) and Miss Patience Duffort (Administrator) from the Department of Academic Rheumatology, King’s College London for helping with the ‘Oral health in RA’ focus group, which helped shape this document, and to the patients who attended the focus group – your time, views, and contribution are much appreciated.