New study links gum disease to rheumatoid arthritis

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gum-disease-linked-to-rheumatoid-arthritis(NaturalHealth365)  Allow us to be poetic for a moment: if the eyes are the window to the soul, then maybe the mouth should be considered the window to your health – at least according to current medical research!

Scientists and doctors now know that having clean teeth and gums isn’t just about improving your physical appearance.  Taking good care of your oral health may actually help reduce your risk of serious chronic health conditions, including autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Bad bacteria in unclean mouths can get into bloodstream and joints, drive inflammatory response linked to painful rheumatoid arthritis

A new study published in Science Translational Medicine recently concluded that advanced gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, “results in repeated breaches of the oral mucosa that release … oral bacteria into circulation, which activate inflammatory [molecular compounds] that are observed in inflamed RA synovia and blood of RA patients.”

In other words: gum disease damages oral tissue.  This allows bacteria to seep into the bloodstream.  Once inside the bloodstream, these oral bacteria trigger an immune response and can end up inside joint tissues of people with RA.

To get a little more specific, here’s a brief play-by-play of what’s likely happening in the mouths of people with gum disease, as described by this study’s co-authors:

  • Inflammation of the teeth, facial bones, and gums triggers the immune system to “decorate” bacteria in the mouth with a molecular tag
  • These tagged bacteria are then able to breach the damaged mucous membrane lining of the mouth and seep into the bloodstream
  • Sensing foreign invaders, the body’s immune system then creates antibodies against these tagged bacteria; the antibodies will bind to or trap the bacteria, forming molecular globs called “immune complexes”
  • These immune complexes can continue to travel throughout the body and deposit in various tissues – including joints and  joint lining (synovium)

The researchers note that the impact of oral bacteria getting into the blood (and the immune system launching an inflammatory response as a result) may get worse with repeated exposure and contribute to a heightened autoimmune response and worsening RA symptoms like joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.

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Incredible, isn’t it?  To think that brushing, flossing, oil pulling, avoiding processed foods, visiting a qualified biological dentist, nasal breathing, and following other basic oral hygiene techniques could actually support joint health!

As some readers may know, this new data corroborates other research already conducted on the link between oral health, gum disease, and autoimmune conditions.  In 2015, for example, researchers out of the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center collected data from 100 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 40 healthy controls.  They found that a whopping 70% of RA patients had gum disease, with 30% of RA patients having severe gum disease.  This is significantly different from the healthy norm group, where only 35% had gum disease and just 5% had severe gum disease.

“Severe gum disease can be present in the early stages of RA,” writes the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center on their website, adding that dentists, as well as rheumatology specialists, are essential providers for people with autoimmune conditions.

More than your mouth: Bad oral health linked to other health conditions, too

According to Mayo Clinic, many other health conditions have been associated with poor oral health.  These conditions and diseases include:

  • Cardiovascular disease (which includes things like hardening of the arteries and stroke)
  • Endocarditis, or inflammation of the inner lining of the heart
  • Pneumonia
  • Complications of pregnancy and birth, including premature delivery and low birth weight

Large studies have also shown a link between tooth decay and poor oral health with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Our takeaway: it is NEVER too early to establish excellent oral hygiene habits … and the benefits of doing so are widespread.

To learn more about solutions for poor oral healthown the Holistic Oral Health Summit, created by Jonathan Landsman.

Sources for this article include:

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