What's the link between rheumatoid disease and gum disease?

arthritis autoimmune autoimmune disorder gum disease joint pain peridontal disease rheumatoid arthritis rheumatoid disease rheumatoid research rheumatoid treatment

Two white toothbrushes one with blue bristles and one with pink

Studies show that rheumatoid patients have an increased risk of developing gum disease.

Gum disease is caused when plaque —a sticky film of bacteria—builds up on the teeth and hardens. Symptoms include bright swollen gums that bleed when brushed and gums that look as though they are pulling away from the teeth. If gum disease is not treated, it can lead to the loss of teeth.

Studies have linked rheumatoid disease and gum disease for many years. Both diseases involve inflammation but until recently the link has not been well understood. 

A 2017 study from John Hopkins University found that a bacterium that causes chronic gum infections also triggers the inflammatory autoimmune response found in rheumatoid patients.

The study looked at a process called hypercitrullination. It is triggered by the bacterium ‘Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans’.

The hypercitrullination process is involved in inflammation and is found in both rheumatoid disease and gum disease.

Hypercitrullination drives the activity that creates inflammation and joint pain for rheumatoid patients.

Now that the connection has been established, further research is needed.

Hopefully, this could lead to future treatments for rheumatoid disease. 

In the meantime, if you may notice bleeding whilst brushing your teeth, visit your dentist immediately.


Source: Sci Transl Med 2016 Dec 14l8 (369):369ra176. Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans-induced hypercitrullination links peridonal infection to autoimmunity in rheumatoid arthritis. Konig, MF, Abusleme, L, Reinholdt J, Palmer RJ, Teles RP, Sampson K, Rosen A, Nigrovic PA, Sokolove J, Giles JT, Moutsopoulose NM, Andrade F


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