Arthritis & Gum Disease Linked According To Research

Posted on Nov 28, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Periodontal (gum) disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. However, the oral bacteria that lead to gum disease have been found to cause problems far beyond the mouth. Through tears in weakened gum tissues, this infectious bacteria can enter the bloodstream and move through the body. Research has found that the inflammation of gum disease bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere.

So, what does this have to do with arthritis? Let’s go back and start at the beginning. Gum disease forms from an accumulation of oral bacteria that becomes infectious. Initially, symptoms include gums that bleed when brushing, frequent bad breath and gum tenderness. As it progresses, the gums darken in color and pus pockets form at the base of teeth. Eventually, teeth loosen and may require removal.

Over the years, research has found a correlation between the bacteria of periodontal disease and a number of serious health problems. Due to the inflammatory triggers associated with the oral bacteria of gum disease, it has been linked to heart disease, stroke, memory loss, preterm babies, diabetes and impotency.

While the association between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gum disease seems unlikely, research is showing a remarkably close connection. Apparently, gum disease and arthritis share a genetic similarity in their clinical makeup. Both have similar clinical structures, primarily in pathogens, which are agents that cause disease or illness. What has been found is that the pathological processes that occur in both gum disease and RA are almost identical.

microscopeWhile it is apparent that both conditions cause chronic inflammation in tissues that connect to bone, researchers have found that both also have a similar inflammatory trigger. Another likeness is in the bacteria found in gum disease tissues and tissues surrounding joints in arthritic patients.

In one study, a particular pathogen associated with gum disease was found to activate the same destructive process of rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been shown that, by treating periodontal disease in RA patients, symptoms often improve. This has been attributed to a reduced burden of oral inflammation to the system.

RA is a disabling and painful disease that destroys joints. It typically emerges on a gradual basis, often beginning with morning stiffness and weak, achy muscles. This is commonly followed by joint pain along with sore and stiff joints.

As RA inflammation increases, joints become swollen with symptoms of fever, disfiguring of hands and feet, numbness and tingling. Arthritis is traditionally felt in the fingers, wrists, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, toes, shoulder and neck.

There is no cure for RA and lifelong treatment is required. Treatment may consist of medications, physical therapy, or even surgery.

Like RA, periodontal disease causes pain, swelling, and tenderness. As it worsens, the associated inflammation can destroy gum tissues, teeth and the bone structures that support teeth (including surrounding tissues).

What’s exciting about these research findings is how oral health is so closely correlated to one’s overall health. Yet, it should also be a wake-up call to adults to take note of how the presence of gum disease can significantly increase one’s risk for serious health conditions.

Even in today’s advanced age of modern medicine, nearly 75% of the American adult population have some level of periodontal disease. Be committed to sharing your knowledge of the link between oral health and good overall health. Promote the need for a thorough oral hygiene regimen at home as well as a commitment to 6-month dental check-ups and exams.

If you have signs of gum disease, call for an examination at your earliest convenience. Gum disease only worsens when treatment is delayed, which often requires more treatment time and expense as it progresses. As a periodontal specialist, a Periodontist has unique expertise to treat all stages of gum disease to restore your smile to a healthy state.

Call 828-274-9440 for more information or to schedule an examination.

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