New Study Links RA to Oral Bacteria

New Study Links RA to Oral Bacteria

When you receive quality dental care from Eugene family dentist Dr. Feldmanis, you don’t just improve your odds of enjoying a healthy, great-looking smile for a lifetime. You also lower your risk for a variety of systemic diseases that can seriously impact your quality of life.

In the U.S., roughly 1.5 million people have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes swelling, discomfort, and permanent damage in the joints.

Early detection of RA, especially early on, offers a number of benefits to patients, and identifying ways to detect the disease is a key point of emphasis for researchers. The earlier a patient receives a RA diagnosis and receives treatment, the better their chances become to enjoy a quality outcome, such as limiting permanent damage and a loss of function.

Complicating early detection is that researchers still don’t know what exactly causes RA to develop in patients, although some combination of environmental factors and genetics seems most likely. Without knowing what to look for, researchers have a difficult time identifying the risk factors for RA that could potentially help patients receive treatment early on in the disease’s development.

In recent years, RA researchers have started exploring the connection between early-stage RA (ERA), people who have a risk for developing full blown RA, and any changes that may have occurred to their oral microbiome.

Preliminary research has shown that individuals with ERA and at risk for developing RA have abnormal levels of certain types of bacteria in their mouth known for causing gum disease. As a result, these types of patients also have a higher risk for developing gum disease.

Even more compelling, some research now suggests that RA may actually begin in the mouth.

In an effort to put all of these pieces together, researchers from the Academic Centre for Dentistry in Amsterdam began the process of analyzing the oral microbiome of people with ERA at risk of developing RA, and those without any joint inflammation.

The results of the study were published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.

RA and the Microbiome

Health experts have long hypothesized that autoimmune diseases like RA are caused or potentially triggered by microorganisms. Researchers have known that links exist between gum disease, changes in the oral microbiome, and RA.

The mouth contains millions, potentially billions depending on the last time you brushed, of individual bacterial strands. This collection of bacteria is referred to as the oral microbiome.

Most of this bacteria plays a beneficial role in helping to maintain the health of our mouths. Some of the bacteria is detrimental, and can contribute to the development of dental disease and decay.

A healthy mouth needs to maintain the right balance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria. When the pendulum swings too far in one direction, an individual’s risk of disease and developing oral health problems increases.

One 2009 study found that certain types of oral bacteria were identified in the joints of patients with severe cases of RA. Other studies have suggested that antibodies for certain types of bacteria linked to the development of gum disease may play a role in whether a patient develops RA.

Add these factors together, and researchers suspect that an individual’s risk for RA all starts in the mouth.

Finding the Evidence

As part of this latest study, researchers examined the oral microbiome and gum disease status of 50 participants.

People in one group had ERA, and those in the second group included participants at risk of RA. People in a third control group did not have RA or were at risk of developing RA.

Each study participant underwent an examination by a dentist to assess their gum health. Dentists checked whether the participants’ gums bled after being probed, how inflamed their gum tissue, and how deep under the gum line they could probe. Each of these tests work to determine a patient’s gum health and extent of any gum disease.

Participants also had their number of teeth checked, dental hygiene habits assessed, and were asked how often they received quality dental care. Additionally, researchers collected samples of participants’ saliva and dental plaque.

After examining the samples, researchers noted that participants in the ERA and RA groups showed elevated levels of two types of bacteria known to cause gum disease. This suggests that this bacteria, as well as others already identified as being a contributor for RA, could work to trigger immune responses that influence the development and exacerbation of a patient’s RA.

The research team concluded that some strains of oral bacteria can cause chronic inflammation, which in turn triggers the release of immune cells throughout the body. The release of inflammation is the underlying mechanism that contributes to the development of RA.

The results of this study add another data point that shows the importance of quality dental care. A healthy mouth means a healthier body. The more seriously you take your oral health, the more you’ll have to smile about.

Ready to receive top notch dental care from a top-rated Eugene family dentist? Schedule your appointment today.

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