The Link Between Gum Disease And Arthritis


Yesterday, I told you about a new study that showed how the presence of oral bacteria in the bloodstream (caused by gum disease) can increase risk factors associated with atherosclerotic heart disease, like increased cholesterol and inflammation.

I also mentioned that the mainstream has been slow to cotton onto the idea that gum disease may be linked directly to heart disease. But the truth is, many conditions have a knock-on effect on each other. Sometimes, something seemingly unrelated can cause a much bigger problem.

The reverse is also sometimes true: If you treat one ailment other conditions may be relieved.

Back to healthy gums

While yesterday’s eAlert focused on the growing evidence that periodontal disease (an advanced form of gum infection) may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease… your gums, especially when they are unhealthy and infected, may also be the root-cause behind other chronic conditions.

Researchers have found that people who have both gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis can relieve both conditions by treating their mouth infection.

I know, gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis sounds like an odd coupling, but here’s how it works:

US researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and University Hospitals of Cleveland studied 40 patients who had both moderate to severe periodontal disease and a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis.

The participants were divided into four groups. Two groups received anti-TNF arthritis drugs. (TNF or tumour necrosis factor is a protein which is present in the blood when there is inflammation.)

One of these groups also received standard non-surgical dental treatment to clean and remove the infection from the bones and tissues in the gum areas. The other group did not.

A third group was given dental treatment alone and the fourth was given nothing.

The results showed that:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis in the patients given only periodontal treatment was less severe and they had a reduction in TNF-levels in their blood.
  • Patients who were not given periodontal treatment did not show a similar reduction in the severity of their rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The group that only received anti-TNF-therapy (and no periodontal treatment), had no improvement in gum health.
  • Those who were given both dental treatment and anti-TNF drugs saw the biggest improvement in their symptoms.

Previous research has also shown that extracting painful teeth can have a positive effect on arthritic pain. In addition, the study confirmed that the improvement in arthritis symptoms occurred regardless of whether anti-TNF drugs were taken.

Commenting on the study, Nabil Bissada, head of the department of periodontics at the dental school, said: “It was exciting to find that if we eliminated the infection and inflammation in the gums, then patients with a severe kind of active rheumatoid arthritis reported improvement on the signs and symptoms of that disease.”

I’ll leave you with the words of Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Foundation: “Visiting the dentist is an important part of our overall health routine – especially as research potentially links gum disease to not only arthritis, but heart disease, strokes, diabetes and premature births.”

Bear in mind all the material in this email alert is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


‘Gum disease and arthritis’ published online 08.06.09,

‘Gum disease care ‘aids arthritis” published online 07.06.09,

‘Gum Disease’, published online,

‘What is gum disease?’ published online by the British Dental Health Foundation,

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