Is there a connection between rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and periodontitis?

Having rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is associated with pain in many parts of the body: the hands, feet, back, buttocks, or even in the jaw and jaw joints. But did you know that diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can affect oral health? Or that oral health can influence inflammatory diseases throughout the body? It is certainly the case that tooth decay, gum disease and other oral problems are incredibly common in adults: 90 percent have had at least one cavity (hole in the tooth); about four percent suffer from mouth ulcers and aphthae; and almost half suffer from periodontitis. Periodontitis is an infection in the gums that leads to bone loss in the mouth and can systematically spread throughout the body. Research suggests that the relationship between oral health and rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is complex. Studies, for example, which have examined 100 people – half with arthritis and half without arthritis – have found that people with arthritis were almost eight times more likely to have periodontitis, a risk that was not explained by differences in oral hygiene alone. A team of researchers at the John Hopkin Hospital in the USA has studied the link between gum disease and arthritis in more detail. They found striking similarities in the types of inflammatory proteins and immune antibodies present in both infected gums and in joints inflamed by rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

What general oral health problems are more prevalent in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis?

Sore spots in the mouth (tumours & aphthae)

Due to reduced immune protection and inflammatory processes

Dry mouth

Through reduced salivation

Tooth decay

Through reduced salivation

Gum diseases

In dry conditions, oral bacteria can stick to the teeth and over time calcify into a hard substance known as tartar. This can lead to gum inflammation and irritation. If this is not interrupted by good hygiene and tooth cleaning, it can lead to periodontitis with bone loss and possibly tooth loss.

Maintaining oral health for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis

Since some types of arthritis increase the risk of oral health problems, it is important to establish good home hygiene habits and a regular schedule of dental care at the dental practice. The most common goals should be:

  • Maintain regular dental hygiene with control sessions
  • Use the correct toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Do not ignore any signs of infection

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