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Protecting Your Gums May Promote Joint Health

  • January 30, 2017

Brushing and flossing your teeth to prevent periodontal disease might also help keep rheumatoid arthritis at bay, a new study shows.

This study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital and Johns Hopkins researchers, and published in the December 2016 issue of Science Translational Medicine “may be the closest we’ve come to uncovering the root cause of RA,” said Maximilian Konig, the study’s lead author.

The findings may help in the prevention and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and they may give periodontists more proof of a connection between gum health and systemic health.

Study results found that the same bacteria that cause periodontal disease may also be the culprit behind rheumatoid arthritis inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints and creates inflammation. Over time, the inflammation can progress from causing pain and swelling to damaging cartilage, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Periodontal disease also is an inflammatory disease.

The purpose of the RA study was to determine if its cause could be bacterial, and whether the bacteria could come from the mouth. More than 400 people participated in the study. Researchers analyzed the composition of the gum fluid to see how it compared among healthy people and those who had been diagnosed with periodontal disease.

They found that a particular type of bacteria existed in many patients with RA, as well as many patients with localized, aggressive periodontal disease. Infection involving this type of bacteria “appears to induce the production of citrullinated proteins, which are suspected of activating the immune system and driving the cascade of events leading to RA,” according to a statement released by Johns Hopkins.

This isn’t the first time research has revealed a connection between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis. A 2012 study presented at the 2012 European Congress of Rheumatology found that tooth loss – a common side effect of periodontal disease – may predict rheumatoid arthritis and its severity.

“At this time, it is both simple and cost-effective to manage periodontal disease using the LANAP protocol in one visit,” says Dr. Henry Hsu.