Bacteria found in gum disease responsible for arthritis flare-ups

Gum disease begins in the mouth but spreads to the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is just one of several diseases linked to poor oral health.

Periodontal disease, which affects up to 47% of US adults, is suspected to be linked to various adverse health outcomes, including rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists at Stanford University have found a possible mechanism: oral bacteria invade the bloodstream and trigger the production of antibodies that target both the microbial invaders and healthy proteins found in human joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that manifests as an overactive inflammatory response caused by malfunctioning antibodies that bind to important joint proteins. One of the most common targets of arthritis-causing antibodies is citrullinated proteins. Around 60% to 70% of rheumatoid arthritis patients express anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs). The researchers at Stanford found that flare-ups in arthritis patients with gum disease were associated with increased antibody activity, which they believe is stimulated by the invasion of oral bacteria. The researchers also found that antibodies from arthritis patients bound to oral bacteria with citrullinated proteins, suggesting that invasion by oral bacteria stimulates immune cells to release ACPAs that bind to both the bacteria and human joint proteins, which triggers a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up. Preventing or limiting the production of ACPAs could help treat rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases in which ACPAs play a role, such as psoriatic arthritis and pulmonary tuberculosis.

As periodontal disease (gum disease) has been found to be linked to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, a periodontist could potentially help by treating and preventing gum disease. By providing preventative care and treatment for gum disease, a periodontist can help to reduce the number of oral bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and potentially contribute to chronic inflammation in the joints.

Periodontists are specialists in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of gum disease. They can provide deep cleaning procedures, such as scaling and root planing, to remove the buildup of plaque and tartar below the gumline that can lead to gum disease. In addition, they can perform more advanced procedures, such as gum grafting or dental implant placement, to restore lost or damaged gum tissue.

By promoting good oral health and preventing gum disease, a periodontist can help to reduce the likelihood of systemic inflammation and potentially the development or progression of rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis and to determine the most effective treatments for these conditions.