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RA: Another Systemic Connection to Periodontal Disease

  • July 21, 2015

Sometimes we sound like a broken record. We get it. But when it comes to systemic illnesses, a great many roads lead back to periodontal disease. We simply can’t stop talking about that.

“I firmly believe the more we can show how taking care of your teeth and gums can help prevent other serious systemic illnesses, the healthier we can be as a population,” says Dr. David DiGiallorenzo.

In this article, we’re addressing the connection between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis, which affects about 2.1 million people in the United States, according to the study published in Current Oral Health Reports in December 2014.

It sounds a bit outlandish that aching joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis could signal the need to take better care of your teeth. But there is a popular belief among medical professionals that treating periodontal disease may decrease joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Both are inflammatory conditions, and their connection has been studied for more than 30 years, according to the study, which also was presented in March 2015 at the International Association for Dental Research General Session.

Scientists haven’t gone so far as to say that periodontal disease causes RA, based on their research. However, this latest study found that the bacteria that causes periodontal disease secretes an enzyme, and people with RA have high levels of antibodies that may be caused by this particular enzyme.

The doctors involved in this study hypothesized that treating periodontal disease may decrease joint inflammation in RA, and may enable patients to respond better to RA therapy. They also recommended that RA sufferers increase their fatty acid intake and lose weight if needed. And, like we do with our periodontal disease patients, the doctors recommend those with RA stop using tobacco products, in addition to practicing proper dental care.

Patients who have RA also tend to be more prone to periodontal disease, and the severity of their periodontal disease tends to be greater than those without RA. RA sufferers who have periodontal disease are at greater risk of tooth and bone loss.

Scaling and root planing has been shown to effectively manage periodontal disease, and as an added benefit to RA sufferers, studies have shown it reduces “systemic mediators of inflammation” that might be associated with a periodontal disease/systemic disease connection, according to the study.

Please contact our office for an appointment if you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis so we can conduct a thorough evaluation of your oral health. We will work with you to improve your dental health, get any oral disease under control, and to help improve your overall health and life quality.