How is gum pain related to joint pain? Periodontal disease, or gum disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are systemic inflammatory disorders that affect different parts of your body. Both diseases attack the immune system and the surrounding tissue, eventually leading to tooth loss or joint pain. These two diseases have more in common than you might think. Understanding them could help preserve your overall health.
Perhaps the most striking similarity in gum disease and arthritis is the presence of inflammation, an immune system response that is triggered to fight viruses and bacteria. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, meaning that it will trigger an inflammatory response automatically, even if there are no viruses or bacteria present. One study in the journal PLoS Pathogens found that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, will increase the severity of rheumatoid arthritis. This ultimately causes symptoms to progress more quickly.
It is important for patients with rheumatoid arthritis to take care of their oral health. It’s also vital that they work with their dentist to find out what kind of treatment works best. Those with both periodontal disease and RA should work with a team composed of both a physician and a periodontist. A periodontist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. When patients with RA successfully treat periodontal disease, their other symptoms may also improve.
If you’ve been diagnosed with RA, pay close attention to oral health, keep up with your dental exams, eat healthy and don’t forget to brush and floss. If inflammation or joint stiffness gets in the way of your oral care, talk to your dentist about ways to make personal dental care easier.
Karl A. Smith, DDS, MS
Phone: (703) 894-4867
2500 N. Van Dorn St., Suite 128
Alexandria, VA 22302