What happens in your mouth and what happens in your knees, elbows and other joints seem like they’re driven by two completely different things. At first glance, the one thing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and periodontal disease appear to have in common is their ability to make it difficult to enjoy the things you love. However, recent research has discovered that taking care of your teeth and gums may be a great way to reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis
How Are They Connected?
Some theories that have surfaced regarding the connection between mouth and joints include the patients’ struggle to commit to oral hygiene because of painful joints. Additionally, some RA medications may suppress the body’s ability to fight off dangerous mouth bacteria.
Studies conducted of patients who suffer from periodontal disease, yet didn’t exhibit any symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, found these individuals to be much more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis than their disease-free counterparts. Unfortunately, the current research has not been able to prove a cause and effect between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease; only that patients with one have a much greater risk of developing the other.
In a number of independent studies presented at the European Congress of Rheumatology in 2012, the severity of periodontal disease and tooth loss seemed to predict the severity of RA. The more teeth lost to periodontal disease, the more joints were inflamed.1 Some researchers believe this may relate to the type of inflammation present in both conditions and the similarity of the oral and joint tissues. Many maintain if periodontal disease causes or worsens rheumatoid arthritis, then treating gum disease may improve RA as well.
No one wants to experience the symptoms of both periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Although the correlation that’s been proven doesn’t necessarily imply causation, mounting evidence seems to be pointing toward a linkage of some sort, in which case it makes sense to take the cautious route and keep your mouth healthy in hopes that it will reduce the risk of developing RA.
Poor oral hygiene is the number one trigger of periodontal disease. Therefore, developing a great hygienic routine can keep more than just your teeth healthy. Brushing, flossing and eating nutritious foods are the best ways to avoid developing gum disease and possibly even RA.
Keeping Your Mouth Healthy
Whether you have periodontal disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or both, it is important to remember that your oral health can affect your entire body. If you struggle to keep up with an oral hygiene routine due to RA or another condition that affects your mobility, talk to your dentist to develop a plan more suited to your needs. To schedule an appointment, contact Periodontal Associates or call (717) 652-3887.