Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that is characterized by loss of the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone, and is a major cause of tooth loss. Results from clinical and epidemiologic studies have suggested that periodontitis and tooth loss are more prevalent in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the strength and temporality of the association are uncertain. Several biologically plausible causal and noncausal mechanisms might account for this association between periodontitis and RA. There is evidence to suggest that periodontitis could indeed be a causal factor in the initiation and maintenance of the autoimmune inflammatory response that occurs in RA. If proven, chronic periodontitis might represent an important modifiable risk factor for RA. In addition, patients with RA might show an increased risk of developing periodontitis and tooth loss through various mechanisms. Moreover, exposure to common genetic, environmental or behavioral factors might contribute to a noncausal association between both conditions.