Bad Oral Health = Arthritis?

According to a new study, bacteria that are responsible for gum disease may also trigger rheumatoid arthritis. Until recently, most research showed both conditions occurring simultaneously, but were never linked. However, a direct correlation between the two has finally been made.


Periodontitis is a gum disease brought about by the bacteria porphyromonas gingivalis, in which it takes up residency in plaque, eventually causing inflammation and gum disease. The doctor leading the study administered the bacteria to mice and observed the side effects. The mice exposed to the bacteria not only developed oral health issues, but they also saw the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) twice as fast as those not affected by the porphyromonas gingivalis bacterium. In addition to the development of RA, the mice also experienced a faster breakdown of bone and cartilage material.

Researchers are currently working on the development of a vaccine that would protect against the porphyromonas gingivalis bacterium. In the meantime, our best and only defense is traditional oral hygiene. While brushing twice a day is emphasized, and typically practiced by many, flossing is often overlooked. Flossing is just as important, if not more so than regular brushing. Most of the damaging oral bacteria reside between teeth where a toothbrush generally cannot reach. This translates to flossing being the best way to eliminate this type of bacteria, and prevent oral disease.

As with most new studies, the findings need time to mature, and are yet relatively unsupported by cross-examining research. Since the experimental group consisted of mice, and while correlations can be drawn between the physiological aspects of humans and other mammals however, the findings are not yet definitive. The best thing we can do is maintain good oral health to reduce our chances of developing any form of inflammatory disease.


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