Gum Disease and Arthritis

Gum Disease and Arthritis

Researcher at the University of Leeds in the UK have completed a four-year study that links gum disease to rheumatoid arthritis.  They found a direct correlation between gum disease and both the severity of and exacerbations of

rheumatoid arthritis.  Various species of the bacteria Streptococcus are the culprits.  When a person with gingivitis

chews or brushes their teeth the bacteria enter the bloodstream.  This activates the immune system to make antibodies.  As it turns out the antibodies that attack the Strep are the same ones that attack joint cartilage.  They are called citrullinated antibodies and measurement of them is one of the diagnostic tests for rheumatoid arthritis.  It probably shouldn’t have been a surprise as the Strep germ that causes Strep throat has a long legacy of causing the autoimmune phenomenon called rheumatic fever which can lead to rheumatic heart disease.  The cartilage in our joints is the same as the cartilage that makes our heart valves. 

Although it wasn’t part of the initial study, the UK scientists found that people with the oral bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis and gum disease were much more prone to Alzheimer’s disease.  The bottom line is to practice good dental hygiene both at home and with your dentist.    

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