Study Says Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked to Gum Disease

We’ve known something about the connection between rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease for a while now, and a recent Spanish study adds to the growing list of evidence that draws a real link between the two diseases.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that affects the joints. It can cause pain, swelling or stiffness, or a combination of all three. Symptoms occur as the immune system attacks the body’s tissues, and it affects women more often than men, though anyone can get the disease. Older adults are more likely to suffer from the condition, too. The causes of this debilitating disease still aren’t known — but we do know it’s often accompanied by gum disease.

About the Spanish Study

Conducted in Murcia, Spain, the recent study included 44 patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and 41 control subjects. To find out how the arthritic condition might affect or be affected by gum health, both groups received a thorough periodontal examination. The results? Patients from the rheumatoid arthritis group were significantly more likely to have bleeding gums upon probing, as well as more likely to have plaque.

Overall, the study concluded that subjects with rheumatoid arthritis in the study had a 0.13 increased risk for gum disease.

Studies like the one performed in Spain help periodontists advise patients on how to best care for their mouths. Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, or with a family history of the condition, should take extra care with their teeth in order to prevent gum disease.

Preventing Gum Disease: Some Tips

When it comes to preventing infected gums, there’s one thing everyone should take into consideration: excellent oral hygiene is crucial. Good dental habits go far in guarding against gum disease. Brushing thoroughly for two minutes, at least twice a day, and flossing once a day are both mandatory for good oral health. Adding a fluoridated mouthwash doesn’t hurt, either.

Other things to avoid for healthy teeth and gums include:

  • Tobacco use. Whether it’s cigarettes, smokeless or cigars, tobacco use of any kind greatly increases the risk of gum disease.
  • Poor diet. A balanced diet is necessary for healthy teeth and gums. That means a variety of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy sources should be consumed daily.

When it comes to oral health, it’s not just about the teeth. It’s about a whole-body approach.

Meet Dr. D

Dr. David DiGiallorenzo received his training at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Periodontics and Periodontal Prosthesis in the early 1990s. His training included prosthodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, and advanced oral reconstructive techniques, including oral implantology.

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