Blog / Dental Health

How Are Gum Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked?

February 20, 2017

Happy older woman gardeningWhile gum disease may not seem like a big deal, we encourage you to take it seriously. Advanced gum disease is associated with diabetes complications, as well as an increased risk of heart disease, strokes, cancer, osteoporosis, and respiratory disease. Yet, that’s not all—new evidence suggests gum disease is also linked to rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

What Is the Link Between Gum Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

In December 2016, scientists reported that a bacterium known to cause chronic gum infections also triggers the inflammatory “autoimmune” response characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.

Essentially, people with gum disease may be putting themselves at risk of developing joint-destroying RA. While further research is still necessary, we recommend you view this information as an incentive to take great care of your teeth.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease is caused by the bacteria found in dental plaque. As the bacteria in plaque builds up, gums become irritated and inflamed. When this occurs, we refer to it as gum disease.

What Are the Stages of Gum Disease?

The earliest stage of gum disease is gingivitis. With gingivitis, gums are inflamed and may be red, swollen, or prone to bleeding during brushing and flossing.

Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. During this stage of the disease, the supporting bones and fibers that support teeth experience irreversible damage. Additionally, “pockets” form below the gum line, encouraging the growth of plaque.

The final stage of gum disease is advanced periodontitis. Because the fibers and bones of teeth are being destroyed, teeth may loosen or shift. Ultimately, patients with this condition may need their teeth removed.

How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?

The best way to prevent gum disease is to take great care of your teeth. We recommend you brush at least twice a day for two minutes at a time with a gentle toothbrush, holding it at a 45-degree angle to the tooth surface. Also, don’t forget to floss daily. If you’re prone to forgetting, try to do it at the same time each day so it becomes a habit.

Additionally, we encourage you to schedule regular dental checkups. Not only do checkups give us the opportunity to examine your gum health, but they’re also the only way you can have hardened plaque, called tartar, removed from your teeth.

What Can My Dentist Do to Prevent Gum Disease?

In our office, we will thoroughly clean the root surfaces of your teeth at the gum line to remove plaque and tartar buildup. This will keep your oral health at its best and help prevent gum disease.

Following your cleaning, Dr. Walton or Dr. Petry will do a thorough examination of your teeth and gums to look for signs and symptoms of gum disease, oral cancer, and other dental problems. If an oral health issue is uncovered, we’ll create a treatment plan to effectively address the issue.

And speaking of those dental exams, are you due for a checkup? If so, it’s easy to schedule an appointment. You can request one online by clicking here or by calling our office at 330.434.3485. We are conveniently located at 508 E. Exchange Street in the heart of Akron.