• The Link Between Dental Health and Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory condition, happens when the immune system attacks bodily tissues instead of an invading organism. This ailment primarily affects the joints, and it can also impact other body systems. However, what you may not know is that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can complicate your dental health.

    What does RA have to do with your mouth? Scientists have long been investigating a link between RA and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a condition that inflames the gums, causing them to pull away from the teeth, which leaves the teeth vulnerable to plaque, cavities, and, ultimately, tooth decay. About 35 percent of the general population has gum disease, but a recent study from John Hopkins Arthritis Center shows that, for RA patients, that number jumps to 70 percent.

    What’s the connection? It comes down to inflammation. Because rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease, it makes sense that it would contribute to the gum inflammation of periodontal disease. There’s more to it than that, though. Research indicates that the same bacteria that cause periodontal disease can also trigger RA. Infection caused by this particular type of bacteria can prompt an inflammatory response that causes rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. So, even as the inflammation of RA can contribute to gum inflammation, poor dental health can lead to symptoms of RA.

    How can you use this information to your benefit? A recent study found that when people who suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis treated their gum disease, their RA side effects improved. Further, as doctors and dentists learn more about the specific bacteria that can be triggers for both gum disease and RA, it will become easier to identify people at risk for rheumatoid arthritis before they even experience any symptoms.

    Inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to other dental conditions as well, like Sjogren’s Syndrome, which decreases the moisture in your eyes and mouth. Sjogren’s Syndrome can also lead to dysfunction of major organs, so if you have RA, it’s important to have your dentist check your salivary flow to rule out Sjogren’s Syndrome. TMJ disorders can also be aggravated by RA inflammation.

    What can you do to protect your health? While most people should have a dental check-up and teeth cleaning twice a year, those with a family history of rheumatoid arthritis should probably go more often. Your dentist can identify an increase in gum inflammation that may be a warning sign for RA and may be able to help you prevent symptoms.

    Caring for your dental and overall health starts with finding the right dentist. At Park 56 Dental Group, we offer pediatric, prosthodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, Invisalign®, emergency, and sedation dentistry, all at the highest level of treatment. We serve the Midtown, Central Park, Upper East Side, Park Avenue, and all surrounding Manhattan and New York areas, with a patient-centered practice that has hours to fit your schedule. Schedule your complimentary consultation today by contacting us online or calling us at (212) 826-2322.