Gum Disease Raises Arthritis Risk

Categories: Periodontics

Brush and floss! Gum disease may raise your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, a new study shows.

Compared to people with mild or no periodontitis surrounding two or three teeth, people with moderate to severe gum disease are nearly three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the study shows. Among never-smokers with moderate to severe gum disease, the risk is increased ninefold.

People with periodontitis also have higher blood levels of an antibody that has been associated with more severe, damaging RA than do people with healthy gums.

Good Dental Hygiene May Reduce RA risk

So why would gum disease lead to the chronic, painful inflammation of the joints that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis?

No one knows for sure. But evidence suggests the mechanism of destruction of connective tissues in both gum disease and RA is similar, researchers say.

“One of the questions I get all the time from RA patients is, ‘What is my kids’ risk of developing it?’ This suggests that in people with a family history, flossing and brushing can help to modify risk.”

Darcy Majka, MD, a rheumatologist at Northwestern University in Chicago who moderated a news conference to discuss the findings, tells WebMD, “This is a very important study — the first to show [a causal relationship] between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontitis.