Research Closely Ties RA To Gum Disease

Posted on Feb 10, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

As a Periodontist, I treat all stages of periodontal (gum) disease. In early stages, the condition causes gums to bleed when brushing, bad breath and gum tenderness. As gum disease progresses, gums become red in color and pus pockets form at the base of teeth. Eventually, teeth loosen and may require removal. Gum disease, to no surprise, is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

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.

For people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the condition’s association with gum disease seems unlikely. Yet, research is showing a remarkably close connection.

It’s not only been determined that both gum disease and RA share a genetic likeness, their clinical makeup shows similar structures, primarily in pathogens. A pathogen is an agent in the body that causes disease or illness. The pathological processes that occurs in both gum disease and RA are almost identical.

While it is apparent that both conditions cause chronic inflammation in tissues that connect to bone, researchers have found that both diseases also 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.

RA is a debilitating disease that destroys joints. It is disabling and painful. In most cases, RA emerges gradually, often beginning with morning stiffness along with weak and aching muscles. Joint pain follows, with joints feeling sore and stiff. RA is typically found in the fingers, wrists, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, toes, shoulder and neck.

As inflammation from RA increases, joints become swollen with symptoms including fever, disfiguring of hands and feet, numbness and tingling. 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 associatedinflammation can lead to destruction of the bone that supports teeth along with surrounding tissues.

In one 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.

What’s exciting about the findings of these research findings is how oral health correlates so closely to one’s overall health. Yet, it’s a bit scary at the same time. When you realize that the presence of gum disease can so greatly increase your risk for serious health conditions, it should send up alarms. However, even in this advanced age of modern medicine, nearly 75% of the U.S. adult population have some level of periodontal disease.

Help spread the word about the link between your oral health and a healthy body, especially to those you love. Emphasize 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 (as mentioned above), seek treatment at your earliest convenience. Gum disease will only worsen and will require more treatment time and expense as it progresses.

Call 828-274-9440 to learn more.

Recent Posts