It’s certainly not a new discovery that oral health and overall health go hand in hand. In fact, a connection was first discovered by the Greek physician Hippocrates, who believed in pulling teeth to help cure arthritis over 3,000 years ago.
According to the book Dental Management of the Medically Compromised Patient, there are now 120 different signs and symptoms of non-dental-related diseases that can be detected during a routine oral exam. That number is likely to grow as technology advances in the medical field.
The Link Between Gum Disease and RA
Numerous studies show a link between periodontal, or gum, disease and rheumatoid arthritis. One such study conducted in 2008 by German researchers found that those who suffer from RA are eight times more likely to develop gum disease and that it is usually more severe than those without RA. RA sufferers also typically lose more teeth from gum disease, according to the study. The research team deliberately pointed out that oral hygiene alone was not enough to explain such a drastic increase in risk. So what is the link? Most research points to inflammation as the common factor, said Dr. Ken Collins, one of the leading dentists in the Spokane, Washington, area.
“Bacteria in the mouth that leads to gum disease could be one of the causes of RA,” he said. “It’s believed by many in the scientific and medical communities that bacteria and in turn inflammation in the mouth may somehow be fueling inflammation in the joints.”
Collins said the type of damage caused by gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis are too similar to deny a strong connection. They both attack healthy tissue. Gum disease damages the gums through inflammation and can eventually cause jaw bone loss. RA damages the soft tissues lining the joints through inflammation and can eventually lead to bone loss, as well.
Taking Care of Teeth Is Essential for RA Sufferers
A study conducted by researchers at Case Western University School of Dental Medicine looked at 40 people with both gum disease and RA and found that there was significant improvement of RA symptoms in those who underwent non-surgical treatments for their gum disease compared to those who did not receive treatment for their gum disease and only received treatment for their RA symptoms.
Other studies have shown that controlling RA symptoms can help improve gum disease symptoms, as well. Regardless of the connection between the two diseases, medical experts agree that maintaining good oral health is good for the whole body. Eating healthy, brushing teeth twice a day for two minutes and flossing at least once a day are some of the best ways to keep the mouth in the best shape possible, according to Collins and the American Dental Association.
“Visiting the dentist twice a year is imperative for every single person’s oral well-being,” said Collins. “But it’s even more important for those suffering from RA. It gives us a chance to monitor any changes in the oral cavity and keep an eye out for developing gum disease before it does too much damage.”
Or office in Spokane is located at:
3151 E. 28th Ave.
Spokane, WA 99223
Office phone # 509-368-7788