rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal health

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Periodontal Health

How Healthy Teeth May Stop Rheumatoid Arthritis

catering to hands in pain

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you know it isn’t fun. If you don’t, you still might be at risk for the disease. Many people report that the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis is unbearable, often resulting in the diminished ability to perform simple tasks. This autoimmune disease is unrelenting, and researchers are working hard to solve it.

While the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown today, we’re already taking big steps towards tomorrow. Recent research has begun suggesting links between rheumatoid arthritis and other health factors. One of the major health factors considered is the condition of a person’s teeth.

It turns out that tooth loss and periodontal disease may predict the onset and severity of rheumatoid arthritis.

What exactly does this mean? For anyone worried about their own risk for rheumatoid arthritis, this new research offers a good rule of thumb for avoiding the disease: take care of your teeth to encourage healthy and happy joints. While the research has yet to establish any kind of certainty or causality, it has done well to offer a simple pointer to anyone trying to avoid RA.

a feet xray

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating autoimmune disease which attacks a person’s joints. These attacks cause chronic inflammation to a person’s joints. As a result, the joint tissues grow thicker, often causing significant amounts of pain.

This joint tissue is called the synovium, and it plays an integral role in the mobility of joints. The synovium is supposed to produce fluids that lubricate the joint in order to preserve mobility. However, when a person has rheumatoid arthritis, the synovium isn’t able to produce the necessary fluids to keep the joint effectively mobile.

In general, chronic inflammation has some really harsh impacts on the body. But in many cases, chronic inflammation exists silently within our bodies. When a person has chronically inflamed joints, the inflammation manifests itself much more frequently. Since rheumatoid arthritis attacks a person’s joints, those with the disease often have trouble using their hands, wrists, feet, ankles, knees, etc. Unfortunately, joints encompass a huge number of body parts which are necessary for mobility, so this disease can seriously reduce the amount a person can move.

Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis

To better understand this research, it’s important that we understand what “risk factors” are. Risk factors don’t necessarily cause a certain condition. Rather, they predict the likelihood of a certain condition, based on a handful of different criteria. Common risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis include the following:

Gender – About three times as many women suffer from RA than men.
Age – RA usually occurs in people between ages 30 and 60.
Genetics – If a patient’s family member has RA, then that patient is significantly more likely to also have RA.

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Periodontal Health and Rheumatoid Arthritis

The research in question has concluded that, in general, the more teeth a patient has lost, the greater their risk of rheumatoid arthritis is. In one particular study, those with severe arthritis tended to have fewer teeth left than those with mild arthritis. Patients who had one or more swollen joints as a result of the disease had 26 teeth on average, in comparison with patients who had no swollen joints and averaged 29 teeth. Tooth loss, being a natural result of periodontal disease, is more common amongst those with rheumatoid arthritis than those without the disease.

In another study, researchers attempted to treat RA patients for periodontal disease. They found that treating the periodontal disease tended to reduce the degree of arthritis pain patients experienced. This meant that the treatment of periodontal disease was at least a part of the solution to the autoimmune disease.

These instances aren’t the first time in history that scientists have tried to establish a connection between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Some research on the topic dates back to 1987, when medical doctors first attempted to document their suspicions. Since then, support has only grown for the idea that periodontal disease is connected to rheumatoid arthritis.

Woman Brushing Teeth With Toothbrush In Bathroom

Our Body as a Single System

The best way to think about the relationship between oral and overall health is to think about your body as a single system. Each of your organs is a part of a smaller system within your body. Your mouth can be thought of as the very beginning of your digestive system, or the system in charge of bringing nutrients to your body to keep it running smoothly. Patients who consume high volumes of sugar often have chronic inflammation inside their bodies. Similarly, patients with poor oral hygiene often experience chronic inflammation too. Inflammation makes our bodies run on overdrive, which is hard on all of our systems.

We must remember that everything we eat passes through our mouths before entering our bodies. That means that we’re not only subjecting our internal organs to what we eat, but also to the oral bacteria our food picks up as it enters into our digestive system. A person with untreated periodontal disease is likely putting their body in serious danger with the negative bacteria that exists inside their mouth. To reduce this risk, and the risk of developing RA, be sure to limit your sugar intake and seek excellent home-care for your teeth.

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Fighting Bad Health with Good Oral Hygiene

While we can’t necessarily say that rheumatoid arthritis is caused by periodontal disease, we can at least say that they’re related. And this relationship is enough for the medical experts to chime in. Taking care of your teeth won’t necessarily prevent the disease, but it will prevent its risk factors. Do yourself a favor by taking care of your teeth. It doesn’t take much time, and it has the potential to prevent RA and other major health problems. For anyone who has extensive health concerns such as an autoimmune disorder be sure to choose your dentist carefully.

For medical news tips, article ideas for the blog, or simply to say hello, drop us a line at nebraskafamilydentistry@gmail.com.

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