Although arthritis and periodontal disease are both inflammatory diseases, few patients make a connection between the two. After all, how do achy, stiff joints relate to red, bleeding gums? You might be surprised. We will explain how these two conditions are affected by other diseases in the body and can exacerbate certain medical conditions.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Periodontal Disease: An Overview
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammatory autoimmune disease, causes cells to attack your joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Without treatment, it can have a devastating effect on the joints and bones. Gum disease, on the other hand, is triggered by a bacterial infection and turns your cells against your body. Multiple studies have confirmed that a patient who has rheumatoid arthritis has a greater risk of eventually developing periodontal disease, and vice versa. The two diseases share many qualities:
- Both cause the body to damage its own supporting bone and tissues.
- Smoking increases the risk for both diseases and exacerbates both conditions.
- A patient who has either RA or gum disease will have a higher number of anti-citrullinated protein antibodies, which further inflame gum tissue.
- Following periodontal treatment, a patient with either disease usually feels less swelling, pain, and stiffness.
Gum Disease May Trigger Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are multiple mechanisms by which periodontal disease sets off RA. For example, the same bacteria that causes gum disease can enter your bloodstream, settling in the synovial fluid. The synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints, is adversely affected, and the patient experiences inflammation. This bacteria may also increase cytokine levels, leading to systematic inflammation throughout the patient’s body. For RA patients receiving tumor necrosis factor inhibitor treatment, gum disease may make treatment less effective, severely limiting options.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Exacerbates Gum Disease
It works the other way, too. A patient who has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis will most likely experience gum disease symptoms more severe than those of someone who does not have RA. For example, the pockets that form between gums and teeth are deeper, increasing the risk of infection. Bone loss, another risk associated with gum disease, is also more likely. When RA affects the joints of the hand, it becomes more difficult to manipulate dental floss and a toothbrush, making cleaning the teeth and gums a significant challenge. Not all links are unfavorable, however. In many patients, treating arthritis with certain antibiotics will concurrently treat gum disease.
Please note the importance of keeping all of your health care providers updated on the types of treatment you are receiving, including your dentist or periodontist. If you are being treated for RA and experiencing any of the symptoms discussed, talk to your primary care physician about periodontal disease or contact us to schedule a consultation and learn more about the options available to improve your oral health.
About Periodontics Associates
Dr. M. Randal Comeaux and Dr. Bryan S. Pearson collectively have over 60 years experience and training focusing on both surgical and non-surgical approaches to treating periodontal disease. We emphasize patient comfort and education through a high-touch approach to care. You can expect that our team will take the time to get to know you and provide an educational experience each time you visit.
Contact our Lafayette, LA office at (337) 989-0267 or our Opelousas, LA satellite office at (800) 821-6503 to schedule your appointment. We proudly serve patients in Lafayette, Carencro, Scott, Youngsville, Broussard, Milton, Abbeville, Maurice, New Iberia, and all surrounding communities throughout Acadiana.