If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may be very familiar with its symptoms. They typically include joint pain, various degrees of deformity, limited mobility, and decreased range-of-motion.  In addition, because rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition, you may experience fatigue and weakness.

While these are the most common symptoms, people suffering from rheumatoid conditions may also develop oral symptoms, including ill-fitting dental appliances such as braces and retainers. Here are three ways rheumatoid arthritis can affect your mouth and what you can do about them:

1. Loose Teeth Rheumatoid arthritis has the potential to cause bone destruction, including the bones in your mouth that support your teeth. If you have rheumatoid arthritis and wear a retainer or other dental appliances, wearing them may further loosen your teeth because the bones in your mouth are unstable.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis or another degenerative bone disorder, see your dentist or orthodontist on a regular basis. Because of bone changes, you may need to be re-measured for new braces and retainers.

Your orthodontist may need to take a new set of dental impressions so that your braces or retainer fit properly. If your teeth loosen or if they begin shifting out of place, your medical condition may have started affecting your oral cavity. Your physician may be able to prescribe a medication that can help slow the progression of your rheumatoid arthritis, however, it may not be able to reverse existing damage.

2. Bleeding Gums

Other possible oral manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis include inflamed and bleeding gums. Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to systemic inflammation, and when this happens, your body releases chemicals called proinflammatory cytokines. Changes in your gum tissue may lead to ill-fitting retainers or metal brackets. This can further trigger an inflammatory response, leading to profuse bleeding gums.

When an overabundance of cytokines are expressed into your bloodstream, gum problems, increased joint pain, and even vision problems can develop. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your dentist will monitor your gum condition more closely so that even subtle changes in gingival tissue will be recognized and addressed quickly.

If left untreated, rheumatoid-related gum problems may progress to a severe form of gingivitis known as periodontitis. If you wear a retainer and notice that your gums are sore or bleeding, remove it until your dental professional evaluates your oral health.

Jaw Pain

Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to severe pain and inflammation in your jaw. Because of this, you may experience discomfort when wearing your retainer. While an over-the-counter analgesic may keep you comfortable, your appliance may need to be remade to accommodate arthritis changes in your jaw.

Your dentist may want to monitor the condition of your jaw through diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, and if he or she believes that you need further evaluation and treatment, you may be referred to a maxillofacial surgeon.

If your jaw pain is severe or if you notice that you are unable to open your mouth or chew your food, your physician may prescribe medications to decrease your discomfort while reducing inflammation.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis and wear dental appliances, such as retainers, work with both your dentist and physician. When you work with both professionals, you can develop a therapeutic plan of care to help ensure that your mouth stays healthy while keeping  your overall state of general health in optimal condition.