Dental Health and Rheumatoid Arthritis May be Related

Dental Health and Rheumatoid Arthritis May be Related

Dental health and rheumatoid arthritis are increasingly linked. In a study by the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, 70 percent of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers had gum disease—twice the general-population rate. This strong overlap is believed to involve an enzyme only present in gum disease. Anyone who already has rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is strongly urged to stick to a schedule of regular dental exams.


The enzyme believed to be the culprit in this pattern is called peptidylarginine deiminase. It works with protein antibodies, and sometimes transfers protein into a material, citrulline, that the body attacks as an intruder. This can result in the autoimmune condition known as rheumatoid arthritis.


Since half of Americans are on some level of gum disease, higher risks of rheumatoid arthritis are always on the mind of our dentist. Gum disease itself is highly treatable, but left to its own devices it can lead to damage outside the mouth. Apart from autoimmune deficiency, it can lead to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.


The point of oral hygiene—brushing, flossing, and using microbial rinses—is to keep oral bacteria to a minimum. Most people know the mouth is one of the germ centers of the body, but do not apply this knowledge to a dental routine. As you age, your awareness of your teeth and gums should rise, as their health begins to correspond significantly to your overall health. Diseases you become more at risk for the older you are, only get closer to you if you don’t take care of your teeth.

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