Gum Disease And Its Link To Rheumatoid Arthritis

Research is increasingly pointing towards a link between the two conditions. We’ve blogged about gum disease and its link to stroke, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even pre-term births, let’s look at rheumatoid arthritis. More than 1.3 million Americans suffer from this condition, and it’s been discovered by German researchers in Berlin, that patients with this condition can have a higher prevalence of periodontal disease. In fact a study of 57 rheumatoid arthritis patients and 52 healthy controls discovered that people with this condition are nearly eight times as likely to have periodontal disease1.

The study determined the oral health of rheumatoid arthritis patients and the healthy controls, and took into account demographic and lifestyle characteristics such as gender, age and tobacco use. It’s been found that treating periodontal disease can lessen the degree of arthritic pain and stiffness in sufferers.

To some extent the diseases can be considered similar; both conditions are systemic inflammatory disorders that destroy hard and soft issues through inflammation caused by bacterial infection. One particular toxin from inflamed areas in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers is called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF- α), and is a marker found in the bloodstream where inflammation is present2. It can initiate new infections or aggravate existing infection sites by promoting inflammation, pain and swelling. A study of 40 patients suffering from both rheumatoid arthritis and moderate to severe periodontal and disease was conducted by Askari and Bissada. The participants were divided into four groups, two of which were prescribed a new type of drug which blocks the production of TNF- α, while two groups didn’t receive this medication.2

One half of each of the two groups received standard, non-invasive periodontal treatment, while the remaining half didn’t receive any treatment until the study was completed. Patients who received standard periodontal treatment saw their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms improve, regardless of whether they received anti- TNF- α medication or not. Those receiving the medication showed significantly improved results over those not receiving the drugs.

The connection between these two conditions has been suspected for a long time. Results of studies into the link between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease should encourage rheumatoid arthritis sufferers to be vigilant about their oral hygiene routine. Anyone suffering from this condition should have an excellent daily oral hygiene routine, and should see a dental professional at least twice a year, this will help ensure appropriate action is taken to achieve the best levels of oral and general health.

To read more articles about how gum disease is linked to other health conditions, please click here.

  1. N. Pischon et al. Association Among Rheumatoid Arthritis, Oral Hygiene, and Periodontitis. J Perio. June 2008, Vol 97 (6):979-986
  2. Ortiz et al. Periodontal Therapy Reduces the Severity of Active Rheumatoid Arthritis in Patients Treated With or Without Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors. Journal of Periodontology, 2009; 80 (4): 535
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One Response to “Gum Disease And Its Link To Rheumatoid Arthritis”

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