Is Gum Disease Linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis?

These days medical science is becoming increasingly aware of the body as a series of linked systems that all have knock-on effects one on another.

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Of course this has always been known but just how deeply this interlinking goes is being appreciated much more as new research shows up the linkage between conditions that would otherwise appear quite unrelated. For example, there is now a great deal of evidence to show the link between gum disease (periodontitis), and heart attacks and strokes. Pathogens that appear in gum disease can also be found in the biofilm inside the blood vessels which lead to blockages, known as heart disease. What is also apparent is that there may even be a link between gum disease and Alzheimer's for a same reason that oral pathogen are found in brain biofilm of dementia sufferers.

But is there is link between an auto-immune disease like rheumatoid arthritis and pathogens in the oral cavity?

Current research indicates that there may be a link but it is as yet unproven.

Autoimmune disease is where the body attacks its own healthy tissue because it mistakes it for foreign material. It is well known that this response can occur as a result of trauma the most likely being an infection of some kind. There is one bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis which appears in gum disease, that is known to trigger the autoimmune response that results in the body attacking the linings of the joints and which may, in genetically susceptible people, lead to arthritis.

However, the causal link has not be established. The general advice is, for those who have RA and gum disease is to ensure that both diseases receive treatment.

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Image:

 X-ray of the hand in rheumatoid arthritis....By Bernd Brägelmann Braegel Mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Dr. Martin Steinhoff - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3961869