Studies indicate that compared to the general population, people with periodontal disease have an increased prevalence of RA and, periodontal disease is at least two times more prevalent in RA patients. Researchers have found that the bacteria, porphyromonas gingivalis, which is responsible for periodontal disease worsens RA by leading to earlier onset, faster progression and greater severity of disease, including increased bone and cartilage destruction.
Bacteria in our mouths combine with mucus and other particles to form sticky plaque on teeth that may be removed with daily brushing and flossing. When plaque hardens, it becomes tartar which must be removed by professional dental cleaning. Plaque and tartar buildup lead to gingivitis, characterized by red, swollen gums that can bleed easily, which is generally reversible with proper treatment and improved dental hygiene.
Periodontal disease is characterized by disease progression beyond gingivitis to a chronic inflammatory process that affects the tissue surrounding and securing teeth, the ligaments providing support, and the bone into which teeth are anchored. Symptoms of periodontal disease include bleeding gums, receding gum-line, deepening pockets around the tooth, tooth loosening, and eventual bone erosion and tooth loss. Clinical studies have shown that alveolar bone loss (jawbone) in RA patients with periodontal disease parallels RA-associated bone erosions in other joints and that the severity of periodontal disease in RA patients tracks with the severity of RA disease activity.
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Dental Health: The Complex Relationship between Periodontal Disease and RA