Did you know that people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) may be up to four times more likely to have gum disease than people without this autoimmune disease?
Gum disease is often more severe in people with RA, a new study suggests. Inflammation may be the common denominator between the two. Making matters worse: people with RA can have trouble brushing and flossing because of damage to finger joints.
We all know that having RA, the body’s immune system misfires against its own joints and tissues, causing inflammation, joint damage and pain.
The study compared the teeth and gums of 91 people with Rheumatoid Arthritis and 93 individuals without Rheumatoid Arthritis (same age), none of the participants were smokers, and none of the people with RA were taking RA drugs known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Most participants were women and the average age was in the early 40s.
Close to 65% of people with RA had gum disease, compared with 28% of their RA-free counterparts. Gum disease was more severe in people with RA. People with RA also had deeper pockets between their gums and teeth which is a sign of gum disease severity than those without RA. If you have RA, go to the dentist regularly and don’t smoke, as smoking is known to worsen both RA and gum disease.
If you have RA and bad teeth, paying attention to your oral hygiene could be very important. Chronic inflammation in your mouth can be an aggravating factor for chronic inflammation elsewhere. The good news is that treating existing gum inflammation and infection can also reduce joint pain and inflammation.
Louise Chang, MD
David Pisetsky, MD, PhD. Chief of Rheumatology at Duke University Medical Center
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