Arthritis Patients Urged To Keep Oral Health In Tip-Top Shape

Posted on Feb 06, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

As a Periodontist, I have spent my career seeing how destructive periodontal (gum) disease can be to the mouth. Imagine an infectious bacteria so potent it destroys gums, eats into tooth enamel, an damages the bone and tissues that support tooth roots.

To no surprise, gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. It affects an estimated 47% of American adults yet is often ignored until symptoms become unbearable. Symptoms include gums that bleed easily when brushing, sore and swollen gums, gums that darken in color, gums that recede from teeth, persistent bad breath, pus pockets that form on gums at the base of some teeth and loosening teeth.

Modern research has found a link between the bacteria of gum disease and serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, memory loss, preterm babies, diabetes and impotency. The connection occurs from inflammation that is triggered when the infectious oral bacteria of gum disease enters the bloodstream through weakened gum tissues.

For people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), research is showing a strong connection to periodontal disease through the inflammatory triggers brought on by this potent oral bacteria.

Research has found that gum disease and RA share a genetic likeness. Their clinical makeup shows similar structures, primarily in pathogens, which are agents in the body that cause disease or illness. Studies have shown that the pathological processes that occur in periodontal disease and RA are almost identical.

Both conditions cause chronic inflammation in tissues that connect to bone. Yet, researchers have also noted that both diseases have a similar inflammatory trigger. Also alike is the particular species of bacteria found in periodontally-diseased oral tissues and tissues that surround joints in those who suffer with RA.

In another study, a particular pathogen associated with periodontal 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, RA symptoms often improve. This is likely due to the system’s reduced burden of oral inflammation.

RA is a debilitating and painful disease that destroys joints. RA typically emerges on a gradual basis, often beginning with morning stiffness and weak, aching muscles. Joints that are stiff and sore follow, typically affecting the fingers, wrists, elbows, ankles, toes, hips, knees, shoulder and neck.

As inflammation from RA increases, joints swell and are often accompanied by fever, disfiguring of hands and feet, numbness and tingling. There is no cure for RA and lifelong treatment is required, including medications, physical therapy or surgery for certain cases.

These research findings show just how closely our oral health relates to our overall health. Hopefully, as more Americans become aware of how gum disease can increase one’s risk of serious health conditions, its prevalence will decline. With proper oral hygiene measures, including a thorough oral hygiene regimen at home, gum disease rates will drop.

Be committed to your oral well-being just as you are your heart health, prevention of cancers and your vision. If you have signs of gum disease (as mentioned above), call 828-274-9440 to arrange an appointment, and promptly. As a specialist in this field, I can assure you that gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

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