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!