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Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums

Periodontal disease rises as the joint ailment worsens, research shows

TUESDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may increase the risk of gum disease, a U.S. study finds.

Previous research has suggested a link between RA and periodontal disease, a condition where chronic inflammation results in the separation of the teeth from the gums, loss of bony support, and possible tooth loss.

In this new study, researchers looked for periodontal disease in 153 patients, ages 45 to 84, who'd had RA for an average of 11 years. Eighty-two percent of the patients reported periodontal symptoms, such as a history of the disease, gum recession, swollen gums, and gum bleeding.

After further analysis, the researchers found that periodontal disease was significantly associated with a patient's RA disease activity score and with rheumatoid nodules, leading to the conclusion that periodontal disease is independently associated with RA disease activity.

"These findings, along with prior studies and our additional preliminary data showing a high prevalence of moderate to severe periodontal disease in RA patients based on comprehensive oral examinations, strongly suggest an association between these two inflammatory diseases. We are now conducting a number of additional studies to better understand the pathobiologic mechanisms that may explain these associations," lead investigator Dr. Clifton O. Bingham, a rheumatologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said in an American College of Rheumatology (ACR) news release.

"It is notable that treatment of periodontal disease leads to improvement of other systemic conditions including diabetes, and may even lower cardiovascular risk. Thus it is possible that increased attention to oral health and treatment of periodontal disease may improve outcomes for patients with RA," Bingham said.

The study was expected to be presented Tuesday at the annual scientific meeting of the ACR, in San Francisco.

More information

The American Academy of Periodontology has more about periodontal disease and overall health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Rheumatology, news release, Oct. 25, 2008

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