The link between rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease

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Doctors may not know for sure how gum disease and RA are linked, but both diseases have inflammation in common. Photo: Pexels


(Cathy Garrard/ Everyday Health) — Why do rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease often go hand in hand? Learn about the significance of the link — and what other issues, such as heart disease, this combination may create — and what you can do to protect your overall health.

Everyone should take good care of their teeth, but when you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly are particularly important. Studies show a strong connection between RA and gum disease, an inflammatory condition that can lead to tooth loss and other health complications. “RA and periodontal disease have many similarities, says Marjorie Jeffcoat, DMD, dean emeritus of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “They are both inflammatory diseases.”

At this point, experts aren’t sure which health issue is the chicken and which is the egg. Back in 2008, German research published in the Journal of Periodontology showed that people with RA had 8 times the odds of developing gum disease as compared with people without RA. And study after study has brought more clarity to the connection. Research from the University of Louisville in Kentucky published in September 2013 in the journal PLoS Pathogens found that the bacterium that causes periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, increases the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, leads to an earlier onset of the disease, and causes symptoms to progress more quickly. (…)

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