Treating Gum Disease Eases Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Treating gum disease has been found by researchers to ease inflammation and pain associated with a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis. The study from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and University Hospitals of Cleveland supports previous findings that gum disease promotes systemic inflammation. The study, published in the Journal of Periodontology, shows the importance of treating dental disease for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Nabil Bissada, D.D.S., chair of the department of periodontics at the dental school explains that in the past, rheumatoid arthritis patients got better when their teeth were pulled, or they were given antibiotics. In fact, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms improved because periodontal gum disease was being treated.

Dr. Bissada says, "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.” Dental disease also seems to be prevalent in patients with rheumatoid arthritis he notes.

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Inflammation releases a toxin into the bloodstream called tumor neurosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). TNF- α in turn promotes more inflammation and infection. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers who take drugs that inhibit the effect of TNF- α get better.

The new study looked at four groups of individuals. The findings revealed that treating inflammation by eliminating dental disease, combined with the use of TNF-a inhibitors, eased rheumatoid arthritis pain and swelling, as did treating gum disease without the drugs. The combination of the two treatments yielded the most significant results.

Eliminating gum disease is now linked to the development of heart disease, diabetes and risk of premature death. The current study shows that treating dental disease may also emerge as an important intervention that can ease rheumatoid arthritis pain.

Case Western Reserve University

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