Tooth loss, or poor oral health in general, can affect more than just your ability to flash your healthy set of pearly whites. New studies suggest that the development of gum disease may precede rheumatoid arthritis and its severity. One study has also found out that the more teeth lost (an indication of the severity of gum disease), the greater a person is at risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that it’s a disease wherein the function of the body’s immune system is reversed. Instead of protecting the human body from foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses, what happens with autoimmune disease is that it mistakenly attacks the body instead, which in rheumatoid arthritis’ case, would be the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in the joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles and feet. The effect is usually symmetrical as well, which means that if either one of the knees or hands are affected, chances are that the other one is too.
How Is Gum Disease and RA related?
Early on, medical experts assumed that gum disease might’ve resulted from the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, as stiff joints made it harder to brush, let alone floss. There are also others that assumed that it might’ve been the direct result of the medication for rheumatoid arthritis, as immunosuppressants affect the body’s ability to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Further research, however, has disproven both assumptions.
In a study conducted by German researchers back in 2008, where 57 patients affected with RA and another 52 healthy ones were examined, the study found that those with RA were almost eight times more likely to develop gum disease. However, what was surprising was that oral hygiene alone was not enough to explain the reason behind the alarming increasing risk.
Another separate study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases is also another example of why medication for RA may not be that big of a factor. The said study found out that 91 of their patients with rheumatoid arthritis were twice more likely to develop periodontal disease compared to the other 93 that were healthy. And, that none of those with arthritis had taken medication, namely DMARDs or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.
So, what gives?
Further Research is Necessary
Based on what is written and from the majority of the results of the studies of how oral health and rheumatoid arthritis are related, it would be safe to assume that treating periodontal disease would also benefit the treatment of RA.
One study, courtesy of the researchers at the Case Western University School of Dental Medicine and University found out that may be the case.
Their study, which involved 40 people, both with RA and periodontal disease, found out that those who had their gum disease treatment through nonsurgical means reported improvement in their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms as compared to those who only had received treatment for RA.
One small study, however, is not enough to prove or disprove whether or not treatment for gum disease may also benefit those undergoing treatment for their rheumatoid arthritis.
What is clear, though, is that there is a clear connection between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
If you’re suffering from RA, it’ best to take proper care of your teeth. You can do this by brushing, flossing and rinsing your teeth regularly. Of course, you shouldn’t forget to visit your dentist for checkups and cleaning every six months as ell. You may also want to speak with your dentist or therapist about how to make dental care much more manageable, especially if you’re suffering from stiff hands or jaws.
By working closely with your primary physician and dentist, you’re increasing the chances of you being able to save both your teeth and your joints.
For more information regarding your oral health, contact Dr. David Lunt DDS at 818-885-7230 or visit www.davidluntdds.com to learn more about how oral health can effect your overall health.