Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Your Mouth?
Taking care of your teeth may be a good way to care for your joint health. With a sudden rise in rheumatoid arthritis cases in the past 15 years, researchers are scrambling to learn more about the link between joint and oral health. Does rheumatoid arthritis affect your mouth? or… Does your mouth (oral hygiene) affect rheumatoid arthritis?
Much of the research conducted has focused on the connection between rheumatoid arthritis and tooth loss. But not just small occurrences of tooth loss though, in this case, there is a significant amount of tooth loss with no other obvious reason except for an association with bacteria buildup. Unexplained tooth loss along with joint pain could mean that you are at risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
In a study presented at the 2012 European Congress of Rheumatology in Berlin, 24.2% of the 636 patients with early-stage arthritis had only 10 or fewer teeth. Sixteen percent had only 11 to 20 teeth and 36% had 21 to 27. Remember an adult with a full set of teeth has 32 teeth.
Is rheumatoid arthritis medication side effects to blame?
So what’s the connection between the oral cavity and joint health? Well, some doctors believe that rheumatoid arthritis is actually the cause of a periodontal disease that exists in patients. One of the possible reasons that rheumatoid arthritis is being targeted as the chief complaint is not so much about the disease itself but the medication used to treat it. The medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis has immune suppression as a side effect. Immunosuppressants inhibit the body’s ability to fight off bacterial growth, infections, and illnesses. Doctors already know that periodontal disease is directly linked to the overabundance of bacterial growth in the mouth.
In this case, the medication–not the condition– is blamed for the connection between the two. These rheumatoid arthritis medications help to create an environment for bacteria to thrive resulting in periodontal disease.
There are, however, disagreements among researchers about which one causes the other.
Does periodontal disease cause rheumatoid arthritis?
Researchers at Case Western University School of Dental Medicine are convinced that periodontal disease is really the chief complaint and not rheumatoid arthritis. These researchers state that inflammation in the joints is a direct result of excessive bacteria that exists in the body in areas that include the oral cavity.
The study conducted by Case Western University School of Dental Medicine found that those who received treatment for their gum disease along with rheumatoid arthritis reported significant improvement in their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms than those who received treatment for only rheumatoid arthritis. The study concluded if you address the primary issue, periodontal disease, the secondary issue, rheumatoid arthritis, would be corrected, as well.
While research around the world continues, we can at least be reassured by the fact that researchers are on to something.
What should people with rheumatoid arthritis do about oral health?
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis should try to reduce bacteria and tooth decay in the mouth by eating healthier foods, especially those with a lower sugar content. Make a regular dental appointment to address any concerns. If you are having trouble with caring for your teeth due to stiffness and joint pain, consult a rheumatologist to create a proper care plan.
May 29, 2009. Case Western Reserve University. Treating Gum Disease Helps Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers Summary: Not yet convinced about keeping your teeth healthy, here’s another reason. People who suffer from gum disease and also have a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, reduced their arthritic pain, number of swollen joints and the degree of morning stiffness when they cured their dental problems.