RA-300x300Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gum Disease

By Chris Iliades, MD

Researchers continue to find links between periodontitis (gum disease) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In one study, people with RA were eight times more likely to get periodontitis than people without RA. Another study found that people who had gum disease were more than twice as likely to develop RA than people without gum disease. What these and other studies suggest is a complicated, two-way relationship: RA may lead to gum disease, and gum disease may trigger RA in some people.

How Might RA Cause Periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a type of infection and inflammation that destroys the structures supporting your teeth. Symptoms of periodontitis include loose teeth and gums that are red, swollen, and bleed easily.Periodontitis develops when the plaque that normally forms on your teeth spreads below your gum line. Plaque is a sticky film made up of bacteria, mucus, and food particles. The plaque building up between your teeth and gums causes the symptoms of periodontitis.

Periodontitis destroys the gum attachment to the teeth and erodes the underlying bone. If untreated, this eventually causes bad breath, tooth mobility and tooth loss.