Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gum Disease Risk

Do people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a higher risk for periodontal disease because their limited mobility affects how well they can clean and care for their teeth? Or is there a more basic link between the two conditions?

That is what German researchers examined in a small study published in a recent issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

Scientists looked at 57 patients with RA and 52 healthy control patients. Study participants were matched by age and gender and a questionnaire recorded each participant's risk factors for periodontal disease, including smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, education and chronic diseases associated with RA and periodontal disease. Their plaque index, gingival index, probing depth and clinical attachment loss were recorded with a comprehensive oral examination.

Researchers found that RA status and age were significant predictors of periodontal disease, and patients with RA were eight times more likely to have periodontal disease compared to control patients.

"The present study suggests that patients with RA have an increased prevalence of periodontal attachment loss compared to non-diseased individuals," researchers concluded. "Further, oral hygiene may only partially account for this association … our results indicate the need for a close collaboration among physicians, dentists and dental hygienists when treating patients with RA."

"Both RA and gum disease are systemic inflammatory disorders, which may explain the connection between the two," said Dr. Kenneth Kornman, editor, Journal of Periodontology. "Inflammation is already thought to link periodontal disease with other conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. We look forward to future research that may reveal the biological mechanisms that link these two important diseases."

The American Academy of Periodontology recommends that RA patients brush and floss regularly, see a dental professional twice a year and consult a periodontist if periodontal disease develops. For details, log on to www.perio.org/consumer/arthritis-link.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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