Managing Wellness

Arthritis and Gum Disease: The Surprising Links

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Posted by April 20, 2017

Did you know there are links between rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease? Millions of Americans suffer from some form of arthritis, but may not know the causes of arthritis or how to manage this debilitating disease. Getting proper dental care may lower your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

What’s the Link?

Several studies link tooth loss (an indicator of gum disease) with rheumatoid arthritis. Many of these studies show that having fewer adult teeth is associated with more severe stages of arthritis. One 2014 review suggests that an organism found in the mouths of patients with gum disease produces a form of protein associated with rheumatoid arthritis. These two diseases also share many of the same risk factors, such as smoking, genetics, hormonal changes and age. It’s also possible that problems regulating inflammation may play a role in the development of both gum disease and arthritis.

Does Gum Disease Cause Arthritis?

While gum disease is linked to rheumatoid arthritis, there isn’t a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the two. In fact, the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. John Hopkins Arthritis Center reports that gum disease is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis; but RA is also risk factor for gum disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Effects from Treatment

Because gum disease is linked to arthritis, you may be wondering if treating gum disease helps improve symptoms of RA. Even though gum disease doesn’t cause arthritis, treating gum disease does help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and may improve the effectiveness of arthritis medications, according to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. Since tooth loss is associated with increased severity of RA, preventing tooth loss by getting treated for gum disease treatment is a must.

Is Age a Risk Factor?

Age appears to be a risk factor for both rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease. Many people develop gum disease in their 30s and 40s. Symptoms include bad breath, red swollen gums, painful chewing, bleeding gums, loose or sensitive teeth, and receding gum lines. The onset of rheumatoid arthritis has a similar age range of 30 to 50, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Bottom Line

Having gum disease doesn’t mean you’ll develop rheumatoid arthritis, but there is a definite link between these two diseases. To prevent gum disease in the first place, maintain a good oral hygiene routine—brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice per day, and floss at least once per day. If you do notice any symptoms of gum disease, discuss them with your dentist. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, seeking gum disease treatment right away may lower the chance of RA developing into a more severe form of the disease.

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