Research in the area of periodontal or gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis in the last 2 years has confirmed long-standing observed associations between the two disease processes. New observations have demonstrated that periodontal disease is present, and severe, early in the rheumatoid arthritis disease process.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the cells that line the joints by mistake. Exactly what causes this response is still unclear.
There has always been a long-standing observational link between gum disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis, with Hippocrates (commonly referred to as the ‘father of modern western medicine’) suggesting centuries ago that pulling teeth could cure arthritis.
People with Rheumatoid Arthritis appear to face an increased risk of developing gum disease and are more likely to suffer from more severe symptoms. After diagnosis with Rheumatoid Arthritis, people may notice more bleeding whilst brushing, gums receding and loss of teeth.
A study in 2012, reported that 65% of Rheumatoid Arthritis patients had gum disease compared with just 28% of patients without RA. They found that Rheumatoid Arthritis patients were four times more likely to have gum disease than their Rheumatoid Arthritis-free counterparts and their gum disease tended to be more severe.
People with RA and the doctors treating the disease need to be vigilant for early signs of gum disease to prevent serious infection.”
Problems with joints in RA (including the jaw joint) can also make cleaning more difficult; leading to more plaque being left in the mouth and therefore an increased likelihood of developing gum disease. However, it is thought that this alone does not account for the increased prevalence of gum disease in the RA population.
Other findings include the following:
- Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis), one of the main bacteria responsible for gum disease can lead to earlier onset, faster progression and greater severity of RA, including increased damage to bone and cartilage.
- Concentration of antibodies against P. gingivalis is increased before the onset of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
- Gum disease is established and often more severe in patients with RA and characteristics of gum disease are similar in patients with early and established RA.
- Self-reported gum bleeding and swelling remained significantly associated with higher RA disease activity scores.
- Gum disease symptoms are associated with increasing RA activity; patients with more bleeding and swelling tend to have higher levels of RA disease activity.
Attention to good oral hygiene should increasingly become an important part of RA management.
Our skilled and competent hygienists at Premier Smile Center in Fort Lauderdale deliver gentle, thorough cleanings using the latest procedures and advanced equipment. Gum disease won’t go away on its own. Allow us to help you get healthy. Contact us today for an appointment.