I was recently diagnosed with the beginning stages of gum disease. At 30.
Though totally treatable, it means going to the dentist WAY more often than I’d like (every 3-4 months), more expenses, and another item to add to the list of things I need to spend extra time caring for.
Maybe it’s because of my wisdom teeth removal complications, which led to a few months of less-than-stellar teeth care. Or maybe it’s because I have RA and my body is prone to inflammation.
Gum (periodontal) disease, as it turns out, is one of the many things more common in people with RA. Others include fun stuff like heart disease, depression and poor concentration (which I have definitely been noticing recently, but hadn’t bothered blaming on my RA).
One study found those with RA are more than twice as likely to have gum disease (65% or the studies 91 participants who had RA also had gum disease versus 28% of those RA-free). And, of those who had it, it tended to be more severe.
There’s also some that believe gum disease is not only correlated with RA, but can LEAD to it.
So what, aside from a propensity for inflammation, is causing this link? Well, some scientists have found that porphyromonas gingivalis (PG), the bacteria involved in gum disease, also produces a specific type of enzyme and it’s this enzyme that promotes the progression of collagen-induced arthritis. The enzyme triggers changes in the body’s proteins, which then causes the body to mistakenly attack those proteins. The result is chronic inflammation.
PG works in much the same way as the anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA) found in some patients with RA. In fact, those with RA who have ACPAs have higher rates of gum disease. It all gets pretty complex, and the studies are relatively new, but you can read more here.
Apparently relating the teeth and gums to other ailments is by no means a new thought. Hippocrates was known to suggest pulling teeth as a cure for arthritis.
The moral of the story is two things we already knew:
- brush your teeth and floss religiously, and
- having RA and all that goes with it is no fun.
Oh, and don’t smoke. That apparently raises your chances of both RA and periodontal disease. But I’m tired of reading that, as I’ve never been a smoker.
Anyone else have RA and gum disease? I’d love to hear about your experience!
#1 by Betsy Mulder on March 18, 2015 - 9:13 pm
First, thanks for starting and having this blog. It’s very informative.
I was diagnosed with RA 32 years ago. I am only 50. I was recently told by my dentist that I have bone loss and need go in more frequently. I was surprised as I take good care of my teeth. I was proud that it seemed the only part of me that wasn’t swollen or in pain. I ask my dentist could the RA be the reason I have this problem? She said, “no” that it’s all from lack of flossing! I don’t agree with that. Why don’t dentist seem to connect the mouth and teeth and body and that a systemic disease can effect anywhere in the body? I also have dry eye syndrome that is related to the RA.
Since my dentist doesn’t think RA is related to gum disease I don’t feel I can ask her : What should I be doing? Brush & floss 3 times a day or use something else in place of toothpaste to reduce the plaque formation?
On the topic of flossing, I find it difficult to do with my arthritic hands I therefore use everyday a waterpic flosser. It does a very good job or at least I thought it did.
I’m sorry to be rattling on. I just didn’t know and I’m glad to be educating myself through the internet. I don’t want to lose my teeth!
#2 by My RAD Life on March 19, 2015 - 5:18 pm
It’s so frustrating!! Dentists aren’t trained in rheumatology, but studies seem to show that there is a correlation. I don’t know why they haven’t invented a better tool for flossing yet. It can be seriously rough on the finger joints.
I’m glad you found my post helpful. Dentistry has come a long way and I’m sure they’ll be able to prevent teeth loss. Of course, it involves going to the dentist more, which is no fun at all…
Best of luck!