Can gum disease cause arthritis? Physicians have been interested in the possible connection between gum disease and arthritis since as early as 1980. In one of the newest studies on periodontitis and swollen joints, physicians studied over 6,100 men between 1987 and 1998 to assess the prevalence of each condition. One shocking discovery: Of the men studied, those with severe gum disease were twice as likely to suffer with sever symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Is Gum Disease Causing Arthritis?
“There is clearly a relationship between periodontal disease and RA,” remarked one of the study’s authors, Dr. Molitor, MD, PhD. According to the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis professor and researcher, physicians used to believe individuals with arthritis suffered high rates of gum disease because they were unable to keep up with regular oral hygiene. Arthritis flare-ups, for example, could have made it difficult to floss regularly. However, more recent studies suggest a more complex relationship between the two conditions.
Another explanation: Prescription medications. Drugs designed to treat Rheumatoid arthritis also have an affect on the immune system. Physicians believe arthritis medications could potentially weaken the immune system, making individuals with arthritis more susceptible to gum infection and disease.
Physicians warn that additional research is needed before physicians can say with certainty that gum disease causes arthritis. Interestingly, Dr. Molitor does note that an increasing body of evidence suggests a two-way relationship. Individuals with arthritis seem to be more susceptible to gum disease, while individuals with gum disease demonstrate high risk of developing arthritis.
Gum Disease and Arthritis: A Similar Cause & Effect
In addition to drawing correlations between the onset of arthritis and gum disease, physicians have looked at body tissue to get a better idea of how each condition might be related. In one study, researchers found similarities between the 2 conditions on the cellular level.
“If you look at the tissues of the mouth in periodontitis and the tissues of the joint in RA [Rheumatoid arthritis], there are a number of similarities,” says Clifton O. Bingham III, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. “[These include] the types of cells that are infiltrating tissues of the mouth in periodontitis and the tissue of the joint.”
Prevent Gum Disease from Causing Arthritis
There is good news for individuals concerned with preventing gum disease and arthritis. Because the two conditions are so closely linked, the risk of developing each condition can be significantly reduced through proactive oral hygiene and care. To reduce the risk of developing gum disease and arthritis, follow the tips below:
- Brush and floss each morning and evening. If your gums are particularly sensitive, consider flossing throughout the day to clear excess food debris after meals.
- Use an alcohol free mouth rinse to clean the gums. Avoid alcohol, because certain mouthwashes with alcohol have been linked with oral cancer.
- Trying oil pulling. Swishing coconut oil for 5-15 minutes each morning can naturally fight oral bacteria while nourishing the gums and other soft oral tissues.
- Learn why pH level is so important for oral health.
- Schedule a dental appointment every 4 to 6 months so a licensed dental professional may give you routine updates on your gum health.
Holistic Dental Care at Assure A Smile
To learn more about holistic dental care, contact Assure A Smile online or speak with a member of our friendly front desk at 305-274-0047.