Periodontal (gum) Disease is a chronic infection of the gums and tissues surrounding the teeth. This common yet serious dental health problem has been associated with a number of other chronic conditions in the body. A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Louisville School of Dentistry Oral Health and Systemic Diseases in association with an international team of scientists from the European Union’s Gum and Joints program found a link between the bacteria that causes gum disease and worsening Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). In the study, worsening RA was defined as “earlier onset, faster progression and greater severity of the disease, including increased bone and cartilage destruction.” This study was published in the journal PLoS Pathogens in September of this year.
Specifically, researchers found that Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria that causes gum disease, produces a unique enzyme, peptidylarginine deiminanse (PAD) which then enhances collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a form of arthritis similar to RA produced in the lab. The PAD serves to change the residues of certain proteins into citrulline. The body recognizes citullinated proteins as intruders and that, in turn, triggers an immune attack. In patients with RA, the subsequent result is chronic inflammation that destroys bone and cartilage within the joint.
Clearly, more research is needed to confirm the findings of this study and to further develop this important topic. However, this study just further illustrates the importance of the early detection and treatment of periodontal disease. In cases of mild periodontal disease (Gingivitis), deep cleanings (scaling and root planing) as well as the use of antimicrobial medication and/or rinses can be used to adequately treat the problem. In more severe cases (Periodontitis), more aggressive treatment including oral surgery may be necessarily to stop the progression of the disease.
The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to visit the dentist regularly for dental cleanings and exams and to practice good daily oral hygiene at home. Eating a well-balanced diet can also help to prevent the onset of periodontal disease. In women, certain hormonal changes can trigger periodontal disease.
If you have swollen or red gums or gums that bleed easily, it could be a sign of gum disease. To protect your long-term oral and overall health, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.
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