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Understanding the Connection Between Gum Disease & RA

Rheumatoid arthritis and periodontitis both fall into the category of being chronic inflammatory diseases, but they also share a number of other similarities. This then asks the question of whether a causative relationship exists between these two diseases. While this may seem academic to many patients at our downtown Portland dentist office, understanding whether a connection exists between gum disease and arthritis could help to lower your risk of both.

To answer the question of whether a connection exists, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry in Kentucky looked into the existing data. The study reviewed experimental and clinical findings supporting the connection and potential mechanisms between periodontitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Despite certain differences, the two diseases share a similar pathogenesis, or means of development, according to researchers.

“The body of evidence built up over the past decades leaves little doubt that periodontitis and RA are intimately linked, and that these links are not just due to similarities in pathogenic mechanism and shared environmental and genetic risk factors,” wrote researchers in the latest issue of Nature Reviews Rheumatology.

Connecting RA with Gum Disease

Gum disease ranks as the most common chronic inflammatory disease on earth, with 46 percent of adults in the U.S. having some form of it and 11 percent of adults worldwide suffering from a severe form of the disease. The prevalence of gum disease should come as a concern to many of the patients at our downtown Portland dentist office. When untreated, gum disease slowly destroys the bone and tissue structure that hold our teeth into position. As gum disease progresses, the damage becomes so severe that permanent tooth loss is unavoidable.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease the causes chronic inflammation and joint pain, as well as disability and an increased risk of mortality. While RA affects roughly 0.6 percent of the U.S. population, it was only until recently that researchers had begun to discover evidence linking RA with gum disease.

Studies have found that gum disease is far more common in patients suffering from active RA when compared to healthy individuals, while RA is also more common in patients suffering from gum disease than in those with healthy gums.

These two conditions share a number of common factors, including:

  • Both are disease that have a number of different causes, and both involved localized chronic inflammatory reactions caused by cytokines.
  • Both diseases cause the breakdown of connective tissue.
  • Both diseases cause bone erosion that often goes unnoticed.
  • Both share genetic and environmental risk factors, such as gene expression, nutrition, age, smoking, and socioeconomic status.

While researchers don’t yet currently know whether a cause and effect relationship exists between gum disease and RA, or whether individuals with RA are more likely to develop gum disease due to an inability to properly brush and floss, enough evidence exists to consider a potential association a very real problem.

Protecting Your Oral Health by Visiting Our Downtown Portland Dentist Office

In addition to finding compelling links between RA and gum disease, recent research has also found evidence linking the state of our health with a range of chronic conditions that include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and cancer. While researchers work to determine a clear cause and effect relationship between gum health and these diseases, it’s become clear that our oral health matters more than to just our teeth and gums.

By brushing and flossing daily, along with scheduling regular visits to our downtown Portland dentist office, you can successfully prevent gum disease while also improving your long-term health. Taking care of your teeth and gums can no longer be seen as a luxury or something you’ll get around to later. What this and other research has shown is just how big an impact visiting the dentist and brushing can have on the quality of our lives now and into the future.