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Treating Gum Disease May Help with Arthritis

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Considering that your teeth are connected with your body, physically and energetically, it only makes sense that tending to the health of one might improve the health of the other.

Through recent years, we’ve seen more and more science supporting this fact, especially with respect to gum disease. Earlier, we looked at how non-surgical periodontal treatment has been found to improve glycemic control in patients with diabetes, lower blood pressure, and much more.

arthritic handNow comes new evidence that it may lessen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as well.

The study, just published in Clinical Oral Investigations, involved 36 patients. Half of them had both RA and severe chronic periodontitis (CP); the rest had CP but no systemic health conditions. All were treated with scaling and root planing – “deep cleaning” – and then were checked at three and six months later.

Patients in all groups had healthier gums. Those in the RA group also “experienced improvements in clinical and inflammatory parameters linked to each condition.” Yet

Only the group without rheumatoid arthritis experienced statistically significant decreases in counts of P. gingivalis, Tannerella forsythia, and Treponema denticola [bacteria involved in the gum disease process]. Changes in Disease Activity Score correlated positively with P. gingivalis and negatively with the plaque index.

This last finding, the researchers suggest, lends weight to the hypothesis

that P. gingivalis plays a role in rheumatoid arthritis disease activity and emphasize the need for good oral hygiene in achieving low rheumatoid arthritis disease activity, although patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis may find it difficult to perform adequate oral hygiene.

Indeed, researchers have detected P. gingivalis DNA in the synovial fluid of patients with RA, even though the affected joints were far away from the mouth.

The current study builds on earlier research, such as the 2016 meta-analysis showing a reduction of disease severity in RA patients following non-surgical treatment of gum disease. A study published last year in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology similarly found that “periodontal basic treatment can effectively improve periodontal status, patients’ subjective symptom and circulating inflammatory status.”

As ever, mouth and body are indeed connected.

Image by david__jones

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