Gum Disease Increases the Risk of RA

Gum Disease Increases the Risk of RA

To ensure a lifetime of quality oral and overall health, you need make seeing the best dentist in OKC a top priority. Our oral and overall health are linked in ways you might not necessarily expect.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be an especially devastating form of the disease. While the more common form of the disease – osteoarthritis – usually develops as a result of overuse of the joints which wear down protective cartilage, RA is actually caused by autoimmunity.

Autoimmune disorders – such as arthritis – cause the immune system to attack the body. In the case of arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints, causing severe pain, swelling, and the eventual destruction of the joint if not properly treated.

Not only are the joint affected, RA involves an inflammatory process that can impact many bodily organs, including the lungs, heart, skin, and bone marrow. For example, patients that suffer from RA are also at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Just because autoimmunity causes arthritis to develop doesn’t mean that outside factors don’t also play an important role in promoting the disease. A recent study published in the journal Science Translation Medicine suggests that practicing quality oral hygiene and receiving regular dental care may actually prevent the onset of RA.

Lowering the Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

In the study – conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine – researchers explained that mucosal surfaces such as those for the lungs, GI, and gums tract have long been thought to be possible sites of RA initiation. In fact, during the early part of the 20th century, doctors attempted to treat RA by pulling patients’ teeth. (Unsurprisingly, this form of treatment didn’t work.)

This recent study examined the possibility that a bacteria linked with periodontal disease – Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (Aa) – could be an indicator of the autoimmune aspect of RA. Researchers noted that Aa – more than any other identifiable microbe – was the only one known that could produce the spectrum of antigens found in the joints of those with RA.

To investigate this connection, researchers began by collecting fluid from the gums of individuals with periodontal disease and from those without, and then analyzed both sets of samples for the presence of altered proteins – those which are known to be targets of the immune system. Researchers then identified a pore-forming toxin – LtxA – produced by RA which triggers the production of the citrullinated proteins. And the immune system will make antibodies to these types of proteins. Researchers determined that 62 percent of individuals suffering from periodontitis exhibited antibodies for LtxA, compared to just 11 percent of participants in the control group without the disease. Additionally, these antibodies were significantly higher in patients with RA when compared to those healthy patients without periodontitis.

This data led researchers to conclude that individuals with periodontitis are more likely to have the Aa bacterial toxin and therefore are more likely to produce targets for the immune system to attack. This links rheumatoid arthritis to periodontal disease.

While this study isn’t the final word when it comes to the development of RA, there now exists reasonable evidence to suggest that the disease can be triggered by the presence of this type of bacteria, and could provide a means of identifying patients at risk of RA in the future. At the very least, the results of this study underline the importance regularly visiting the best dentist in OKC on a regular basis.

Better Oral Health = Better Overall Health

The results of this study linking RA to poor oral health is just the latest in a string of emerging evidence that shows how closely our overall health is linked to our oral health.

In recent years, studies have found compelling links between dental decay and gum disease and a range of chronic health problems that include heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer.

To successfully lower your risk of these types of disease – while also improving the long-term health of your teeth and gums – it’s important to practice quality daily oral hygiene and to schedule regular cleanings and checkups with our team at Shepherd Mall Family Dentistry.

Only through prevention can you ensure that the health of you and your family remains strong now and into the future.

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