There’s no shortage of horse farms and riding stables here in south Texas. Nor a shortage of old farm hands who will tell you checking their teeth won’t only tell you the horse’s age, it may also reveal hidden problems preventing good performance on the farm or while riding.
Turns out checking your own teeth can be helpful for more than avoiding dental pain, too. In fact, numerous studies identify a clear link between dental health and arthritis – both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis; as well as many other health conditions or diseases.
The REAL Cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
While many think rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is genetic, twin studies show only 12% to 15% of identical twins will both develop RA. That means other factors greatly influence development beyond simple genetics.
One big factor? Periodontitis, or severe gum disease.
RA and periodontitis are among the most prevalent inflammatory diseases in the human race. Both create an imbalance between the immune system’s pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, believed responsible for both tissue damage and bone loss. Oral bacteria DNA associated with periodontitis has been found in the joint synovial fluid of those with RA. And gum disease has been correlated with severity of RA symptoms.
But even more evidence continues to pour in showing bacteria associated with periodontitis may be the actual trigger of the initial RA autoimmune response. Bacteria has long been considered a likely cause of RA. Now it appears scientists may have identified the specific mouth bacteria associated with the onset of RA: Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (Aa).
Aa is thought to trigger RA when the bacteria releases a toxin which modifies how enzymes convert amino acids within proteins. This conversion modifies signaling that causes white blood cells to attack healthy cells – the autoimmune response.
Is there any good news here? Yes! Multiple studies show treating periodontitis also significantly decreases RA severity. According to one, scaling/root planing and plaque control more than triples the odds of lowered RA severity compared to the control, untreated group.
All Forms of Arthritis Have Ties to Gum Disease
Osteoarthritis (OA) also has direct ties to periodontitis. In a study of nearly 8,000 South Koreans over age 50, more than 3,000 had knee OA bad enough to be visible on X-rays. The study’s authors were able to correlate periodontitis with OA risk – and the worse the periodontitis, the worse the OA. The correlation isn’t necessarily causation, but there’s certainly a strong link here.
Unsurprisingly, other inflammatory health conditions combined with inflammatory dental issues like gum disease further increase your risk of painful conditions like arthritis. One recent study of more than 3,500 participants found those with both Type 2 diabetes and periodontitis had a significantly higher incidence of osteoarthritis.
My bottom-line conclusion from these studies in plain English: the more inflammatory conditions you have in your body, including those in your mouth, the more likely you are to suffer from arthritis pain. So seek to achieve and maintain the best possible oral health.
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This article first appeared in the April 2022 issue of Live Pain Free®, our long-running private monthly publication featuring interviews and articles from world-leading doctors, natural health practitioners and others who share cutting-edge advice for naturally living a pain free, more vibrant life as well as many helpful tips, recipes and more.
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