As a Coos Bay family dentist, Dr. Lori Lemire wants to better educate all of her patients on the risks associated with gum disease and tooth decay. While many of us simply assume that our oral health only has to do with our teeth and gums, numerous studies have shown the exact opposite. Individuals dealing with tooth decay and gum disease have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of chronic illnesses that include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer.
Another chronic health problem linked to gum disease is rheumatoid arthritis, or RA. It might seem like quite the stretch to connect joint inflammation with gum disease, but this connection just illustrates how interconnected our oral health is with our overall health.
Both RA and gum disease cause chronic and progressive inflammation. Previous research has found that patients with RA have a higher prevalence of gum disease when compared to patients without RA. To determine what may cause this increased risk, researchers surveyed hundreds of patients with RA to find out.
The authors of a new study found that their survey showed a significant number of patients with RA also showed symptoms of gum disease.
“Current findings strongly support the hypothesis that chronic periodontal disease could be related to the initiation and maintenance of the autoimmune inflammatory response that occur in RA,” wrote researchers in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.
Connecting the Dots
In their survey, researchers asked participants to classify the health of their teeth:
- 46 percent said they had good oral health
- 40 percent said they had excellent oral health
- 13 percent said they had poor oral health
Researchers also asked participants to classify their health of their gums:
- 49 percent said they had good gum health
- 40 percent said they had excellent gum health
- 11 percent said they had poor gum health
In the U.S., over 1.3 million people have RA, according to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. In the U.S., over 60 million people have some degree of gum disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. In their study, researchers wanted to determine if how these patients described their oral health had any correlation with RA.
Researchers emailed their survey to 300 patients with RA who were being treated at the same hospital. The team received over 160 completed surveys in return.
Based on the results of their study, researchers were able to determine that a correlation was present between RA and gum disease.
Understanding Their Results
While researchers were able to establish a correlation between the two diseases in their study, they did not establish a clear cause and effect relationship.
Rather than gum disease leading to the development of RA, some have argued that gum disease is simply a product of patients having RA. Patients with RA have a hard time performing tasks that require a certain level of manual dexterity, such as brushing and flossing. If a patient cannot practice the same level of quality oral hygiene as they could in the past, their risk for gum disease increases as their ability to brush and floss becomes worse.
What the results of this and other research has helped to make clear is that practicing preventative dental care can offer significant protection against the effects of gum disease and all other related diseases. By scheduling regular exams with your Coos Bay family dentist, you can avoid the development of gum disease that starts you down the dangerous path of increasing your risk for a variety of chronic health problems.
Your oral health matters. Don’t take unnecessary chances with the health of your body or smile by contacting our office to schedule your next exam and cleaning with Dr. Lori Lemire and the rest of our Coos Bay family dentist team.