Oral Health and Arthritis

There has been some speculation over the last few years as to whether poor oral hygiene could be a contributing factor to the onset of arthritis. In particular, the incidence of gum disease and the correlation with the incidence of arthritis. This is a link that has been studied by scientists. One of the primary aims of doing so is to determine if the potential exists to work to help prevent the onset of arthritis through more stringent oral health. 

A study conducted in 2014 revealed that the bacteria responsible for gum disease could also be damaging to joints. The bacteria, known as Porphyromonas gingivalis was shown to worsen collagen-induced arthritis in trials involving mice. Although this research involved the use of mice, it is thought that the results could provide some insight in the future for exploring the connection between oral health and arthritis for humans.

Certain sceptics say that this connection is tenuous at best, largely because of the complex causes of arthritis in humans. However, the connection is one that has been discussed in theory for many years. So, let's take a closer look at the facts!

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is quite a common health condition that is typically characterised by a swelling of the gums. They will also generally become sore and infected. It has become normal for the majority of adults in the West to experience gum disease at least once in their lifetime to some degree.

The most common tell-tale sign that you have gum disease is that your gums will bleed slightly when you are brushing your teeth. You may also notice that you have bad breath. 

The beginning stage of gum disease is usually referred to as gingivitis. If this stage of the condition goes untreated then it will evolve into periodontitis. This is slightly more serious because the tissue that supports the teeth can then become affected. When periodontitis is allowed to develop untreated, the bones in the jaw are then at risk of becoming damaged. Gaps may also start to appear between the gums and the teeth and your teeth may fall out as a result of this.

Causes of Gum Disease

When you allow plaque to build up on your teeth, generally through a lack of brushing, then bacteria can begin to thrive. This plaque will soon begin to irritate your gums and cause further problems.

How to Tackle Gum Disease

Regularly brushing your teeth - up to three times a day - is the best way to work to prevent gum disease. In addition to brushing your teeth, you should also floss regularly to ensure that the slight areas between your teeth are also clean. Using a mouthwash can further help to boost your oral hygiene. Having your teeth cleaned professionally once a year by your dentist is also advisable.

As soon as you notice any swelling, redness or bleeding of your gums then you should see your dentist as soon as possible. A simple examination can then be carried out and a course of treatment decided upon. If your dentist determines that you have already experienced damage to your teeth or bones because of this condition, then an X-ray may be required.

In extreme cases, surgery may be required to correct the problem. Additionally, once you have experienced gum disease once, it is a good idea to check in with your dentist at least once a year to keep an eye on your oral health.

What is Detrimental to Oral Health?

Smokers are at a much heightened chance of developing problems with their gums. Furthermore, smoking can cause staining of the teeth and cancer of the mouth. People who suffer from diabetes are also more likely to develop gum disease and should pay close attention to their oral hygiene. 

Can Good Oral Hygiene Help to Prevent Arthritis?

The research into this concept is still in the very early stages and there is no definitive proof that this is the case. It has to be noted that the type of arthritis that was tested throughout the mouse study is not identical to the arthritis experienced by humans, and therefore there is limitations to how applicable the findings are to the human variety of arthritis. However, there are at least preliminary positive findings that good oral health could be a protecting factor. 

Known Causes of Arthritis

There are several known and confirmed reasons why a person may develop arthritis. Usually arthritis occurs because of a combination of factors, and a person’s genetic makeup will usually have an influence. However, there are also external factors that can lead to this condition presenting, such as injury, infection and smoking. Those who have physically demanding jobs may also find that they are at an increased risk of arthritis. It is not believed that dietary influences have a huge impact on the incidence of this condition.

References

1) http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/02February/Pages/Gum-disease-may-be-linked-to-arthritis.aspx

2) http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/arthritis/causes.aspx