Gum Disease Can Cause Other Problems

Gum disease has been linked to all sorts of ailments, from heart disease to diabetes. And if you have rheumatoid arthritis, it can certainly be exacerbated by poor gum health.

In fact, a recent article at Medline Plus discusses this link further, citing that a bacteria called A. actinomycetemcomitans may be the culprit for both issues:

Could a Germ Link Gum Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic form of arthritis linked to an overactive immune system. It can affect a variety of body systems, not just the joints. The disease affects roughly 1.5 million U.S. adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


For more than a century, scientists have noticed that people with this inflammatory disease are more likely than others to suffer from gum disease, Andrade noted.
Researchers began to suspect a common factor was triggering both diseases.
In recent years, investigators have found signs that rheumatoid arthritis patients with fewer teeth — possibly as a result of gum disease — have more severe cases. Researchers have also reported that people with gum disease are twice as likely to have rheumatoid arthritis, the study authors said.

But the explanation for the connection wasn’t clear.


For the new study, Andrade’s team examined almost 200 samples from the gums of people with rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers looked for evidence of a type of bacteria, called A. actinomycetemcomitans, that’s linked to gum disease.


Signs of infection were detected in almost half of the rheumatoid arthritis patients compared to just 11 percent of another group of people without gum disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
This finding raises the possibility that the germ could cause both gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, the study authors suggested.


According to Andrade, the bacterium may afflict the gums and then cause swelling in the joints as a kind of side effect.


Researchers have also wondered about the reverse — whether gum disease could be a side effect of rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in Current Oral Health Reports raised the question of whether the gums might be, in effect, another affected “joint.” Read full article here . . .

As the study says, if people with gum disease are more likely to have arthritis and vice versa, then could resolving one issue help the other? The Arthritis Foundation thinks so.

A post by Brenda Goodman at presented a study where one group of participants was able to have a deep dental cleaning for periodontal disease, while the other group just followed at-home care. Apparently those who were able to get the dental cleaning were also able to see great results in their arthritis as well, with less stiffness and pain.

This is fantastic news, so if you have both arthritis and gum issues, it’s well worth your time to look into scaling and root planing. But since patients can’t go to the dentist every other day for help, another way to help relieve your arthritis is with anti-inflammatory foods:

Can Diet Really Reduce Gum Disease?

. . . for four weeks, their diet consisted of primal foods endemic to their area in Switzerland about 5,700 years ago. No processed foods were available for them to eat. These participants had to gather and forage for the majority of their food. In addition, these individuals were not able to brush or floss their teeth during the entire four weeks. Signs of gum infection were measured, and cultures of bacteria in their dental plaque were taken before and after the study.


At the end of the four-week study, there was a significant decrease in signs of gum disease even though all 10 participants could not brush or floss their teeth for the duration of the study. Although amounts of dental plaque increased, disease-producing bacteria did not increase in the plaque . . .


The participants in [another] experimental group had to change their diet. Their new diet consisted of foods low in carbohydrates, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and abundant in vitamins C and D, antioxidants, and fiber. The control group participants did not change their eating habits. As far as oral hygiene was concerned, researchers told all 15 participants not to clean between their teeth with dental floss or interdental brushes. However, they did not have to change the way they brushed their teeth.


The four-week study began after each group had a few weeks to acclimate to these changes. Researchers recorded the signs of gum disease in all participants at the start and end of the study.
At the conclusion of the trial, the researchers found that all disease parameters decreased significantly in the experimental group by about 50% from the starting point. In contrast, all inflammatory markers increased from the starting point in the control group. Read more about the studies here . . .

Since both arthritis and gum disease are inflammatory conditions, making adjustments to help just one of them will probably have a ripple-effect on the other.

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