Do you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis? One simple way to help treat this condition is to take care of your teeth. Although at first glance the connection between a joint disease and oral health seems odd, studies have found that the link between poor tooth and gum care and rheumatoid arthritis is very real.

In a recent study, researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and University Hospitals of Cleveland looked at 40 patients who had both severe rheumatoid arthritis and moderate to severe periodontal disease. The patients were divided into four separate groups. The first group received drugs that block the production of a bodily toxin known as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF), which is produced as a result of periodontal disease, and also got non-surgical periodontal treatment to clean out the infected areas in the gums. The second group got the TNF-blocking drugs but no periodontal cleaning. The third group did not receive any drugs but got the periodontal cleaning, and the fourth group received neither drugs nor cleaning. The results? Both groups of patients who received periodontal cleaning experienced a reduction in their arthritis pain, the number of swollen joints they had, and their degree of morning stiffness, especially the group that also received the anti-TNF drugs. The patients who didn't get the periodontal cleanings saw no measurable improvement in their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Need more proof that periodontal health and rheumatoid arthritis are linked? An earlier study, conducted in 2001 in Australia, compared 65 people with rheumatoid arthritis with 65 healthy people and discovered that the arthritis sufferers were more than twice as likely have periodontal disease as the control group.

Why are gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis linked? Put simply, they are both inflammatory diseases. Researchers believe that the toxins created by rotting teeth and gums may spread systemically throughout the body, triggering inflammation in the joints and resulting in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Reducing the inflammation by cleaning and removing infection in the teeth and gums helps calm inflammation elsewhere in the body.

Bottom line: If you've got rheumatoid arthritis, be vigilant about your oral health. Schedule frequent cleanings and keep your mouth scrupulously clean. Your joints will thank you for it.


Case Western Reserve University,;

American Academy of Periodontology,