Periodontal Disease Worsens Rheumatoid Arthritis

That’s right, it’s another blog post about how your dental health affects your overall health. And yes, it’s another blog post about how periodontal disease makes more things in your body worse than just your gums and teeth.

Researchers and clinicians have known for a long while that there’s been an association between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis, but they haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly what, if anything, biologically causes it. A new research study has found just how the bacteria responsible for periodontal disease worsens rheumatoid arthritis, thereby confirming that gum disease does affect the chronic inflammatory disease.

The study found that the periodontal disease bacteria leads to earlier onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), faster progression, and greater severity of the disease. The bacteria can push RA to the point of increased destruction of both bone and cartilage.

How does it do this?

The bacteria produces an enzyme that enhances collagen-induced arthritis, which is similar to RA. The enzyme also changes the residues of certain proteins, and the body recognizes these changes as invaders, thereby setting off an attack of the immune system. In those who have RA, this attack leads to increased chronic inflammation that breaks down the bone and cartilage at the joints.

Past studies have found that people with gum disease have an increased prevalence of RA. Likewise, periodontal disease is at least two times more prevalent in RA patients, further suggesting that these diseases can go hand-in-hand. Some research has even found that periodontal disease often precedes an RA diagnosis.

Periodontal disease is very serious, and needs to be taken as seriously as heart or lung disease. Periodontal disease is even far easier to prevent than heart or lung disease. All it takes is a few minutes from your morning and evening (brushing teeth), a few more minutes at least once a week (flossing), and regular dental checkups twice a year. If you already have RA, then it’s even more important that you care for your mouth to prevent an onset of periodontal disease, which will, as this study has shown, worsen your arthritis.

(Source: University of Louisville School of Dentistry)

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