Gum Disease and Arthritis: Does a Link Exist?

Studies suggest a higher prevalence of periodontal disease (gum disease) in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis (RI). Most of these studies focus on concentrations of various cytokines (chemicals the cells in our bodies use to communicate with one another), specifically cytokines involved in inflammatory processes (like Interleukins (IL-4 and IL-10) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Cytokines like these are present in high levels when inflammation is present in the body. Furthermore, in the presence of high levels of these cytokines, the inflamed tissues in the body break down more readily and more rapidly (damage to their tissues happens more readily where they already have more damage than a normal patient). Since both rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease (PD) are inflammatory diseases, we expect inflammatory cytokines to be present in high levels in patients who have either RI or PD or both. Studies confirm this is the case. Studies go on to indicate that patients who have RI are much more likely to have PD as well. In fact, patients who have rheumatoid arthritis are more than 8 times more likely to have periodontal disease than patients who do not have rheumatoid arthritis.

See your dentist more frequently if you have rheumatoid arthritis

For this reason alone, patients who have rheumatoid arthritis should see their dentist more frequently than the recommended twice per year visits. Because these individuals are more prone to periodontal disease, and they already have a higher concentration of inflammatory cytokines, their periodontal tissues are going to have more damage and their disease is going to progress more quickly than other cases of periodontal disease.

Atlanta gum disease treatment

At Atlanta Dental Spa, when we treat our patients who have periodontal (gum) disease, we do so in a way that reduces the inflammatory processes. First, we eliminate the toxic bacteria present in the mouth and in the pockets around the teeth. In the presence of these toxic bacteria, our bodies naturally increase our inflammatory response in order to protect from these bacteria. Unfortunately, as the inflammatory response peaks, so does further tissue damage beyond what the bacteria are already doing. When we treat our patients at Atlanta Dental Spa, we target the bacteria while focusing on decreasing the body’s inflammatory response. In doing so, we are able to help slow – and in many cases stop – the progression of the disease, and the collateral damage caused by it.

Recent studies

Many recent studies indicate that inflammation in the body leads to high risk for many systemic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and complications in pregnancy to name a few. Atlanta Dental Spa has remained at the forefront of practice as this new information appears. There is convincing evidence that points to periodontal disease as a causative factor for increasing inflammation in the body and putting people at risk for life-threatening illness. There is further evidence that suggests that if an individual already has a systemic illness, having periodontal disease will exacerbate the complications from the systemic illness. This means that if a person with rheumatoid arthritis also has periodontal disease (which we now know they are 8 times more likely to have), the rheumatoid arthritis complications will likely get worse. The good news is that if the same patient has their periodontal disease treated properly, their rheumatoid arthritis complications may be reduced. While this is all new evidence based on recent research results, we at Atlanta Dental Spa believe it is something to get excited about.

What to do now

If you or a loved one has a systemic illness and it has been a while since he or she has seen a dentist (or if his/her dentist seems to be practicing in the Dark Ages), please call the top Atlanta dentists at Atlanta Dental Spa — 678-392-1596 — to schedule a consultation appointment. Our highly educated team will be able to discuss your options for improving your overall health, starting with your mouth.