Arthritis sufferers more prone to periodontal disease

Researchers in Berlin have discovered that patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a higher incidence of periodontal disease compared to healthy controls. But it may not be due solely to problems with oral hygiene.

For some patients, adverse RA symptoms affect manual dexterity, making certain daily routines quite difficult. One area that may be affected is oral hygiene, which can ultimately lead to periodontal disease. However, a study published in the Journal of Periodontology (June 2008, Vol. 79:6, pp. 979-986) found that poor oral hygiene alone did not account for the association between RA and gum disease, suggesting that other factors may play a role as well.

The study examined the oral health of 57 RA patients and 52 healthy controls. To determine oral hygiene status, each participant underwent a comprehensive oral examination, including an assessment of plaque accumulation and gingival inflammation. Probing pocket depth and clinical attachment loss were also measured. Researchers used questionnaires to gauge the subjects' risk factors for periodontal disease.

The study findings indicated that RA patients were nearly eight times more likely to have periodontal disease compared to the control subjects. These findings accounted for demographic and lifestyle characteristics such as age, gender, education, and tobacco use.

The research team then examined the extent to which poor oral hygiene was connected to the increased occurrence of gum disease in RA patients. The results showed that while oral hygiene was markedly a factor, it did not fully explain the association between the two diseases, suggesting that there may be other parameters responsible for the increased prevalence of gum disease in RA sufferers. One possibility stems from the fact that both RA and gum disease are systemic inflammatory disorders, which may explain the connection between the two, noted Kenneth Kornman, editor of the Journal of the Periodontology.

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