The links between gum disease and arthritis

As if you needed another reason to take care of your gums and treat gum disease, researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and University Hospital of Cleveland have found that treating periodontal disease reduces arthritic pain, swollen joints, and morning joint stiffness in people suffering from arthritis.

The researchers discovered a close biochemical association between microbes in inflamed gums, the toxins they create, and the joints.

“It was exciting to find that if we eliminated 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,” said Dr. Nabil Bissada, head of the school’s periodontics department, who worked with Dr. Ali Askari, chairman of the department of rheumatology at the hospital. “It gives us a new intervention.”

Gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis are both inflammatory diseases sharing similarities in their progression over time – the soft and hard tissues are destroyed from inflammation caused by toxins from bacterial infection. One toxin from the inflamed areas, called tumor necrosis factor-alpha, is a marker present in the blood when inflammation is present in the body and can initiate new infections or aggravate sites where inflammation already exists.

For patients who already suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, a visit to the dentist to treat any signs of gum disease might lessen the pain and inflammation. For people not currently suffering from arthritis, it’s one more reason to proactively treat and prevent gum disease.

“Again we are seeing another link where good oral health improves the overall health of an individual,” said Bissada.

Heart disease, rheumatic disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, osteoporosis… they all have one thing in common: they are all linked to gum disease. Once again it goes to show that taking proper care of your mouth makes good, common sense for your overall health.


Dr. Marvin is an holistic dentist at The Center for Natural Dentistry in Encinitas, California (San Diego County), specializing in dental care that protects and preserves your overall wellness. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, please contact his office today at (888) 825-5351.