Periodontal Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gum Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis has been found to worsen progressively in response to the bacteria that is also known to contribute to gum disease. An academic research team has determined that the bacterium associated with periodontal disease, known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, can make rheumatoid arthritis more severe. The bacteria was found to trigger a potentially earlier onset of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, which appeared to progress faster and more severely, leading to advanced damage to the bones and cartilage.

Both gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis are categorized as inflammatory diseases that are chronic by nature. Emerging research now indicates that these two diseases are linked by more than inflammation, but also by a specific bacterium.

The bacteria that is commonly referred to as P. gingivalis, produces an enzyme that can enhance the severity of certain forms of arthritis. In fact, this enzyme changes the structure of certain proteins that are naturally found in the body, making them unrecognizable to the immune system, triggering a chronic and destructive inflammatory response. For RA patients, this aggressive inflammation is responsible for damaging the bone and cartilage that are found in the joints.

Current studies reveal two important facts regarding the link between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease. First, people with periodontal disease are more likely to be diagnosed with RA. Second, people with RA are twice as likely to also have gum disease. Ultimately, the P. gingivalis infection inside the mouth appears to be the most likely culprit for the onset and the progression of RA.

When a person has periodontal disease, his (or her) immune system may be prompted to attack healthy tissues, and this can contribute to an aggressive and destructive auto-immune condition. It is therefore evident that failing to treat periodontal disease can significantly increase the risk for rheumatoid arthritis. Your physician and your periodontist can collaborate in the treatment of your periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis to prevent either condition from impairing your health.