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Arthritis Symptoms Eased by Periodontal Treatment
May 1, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Treatment for periodontal disease may improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, a small study suggests.

The study included 60 people in Turkey. All of them had periodontal disease. Half had moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The other half had mild RA. Rheumatoid arthritis involves inflammation, swelling and pain in joints.

Everyone had periodontal disease treatment that did not include surgery. This usually involves removing plaque and tartar from the teeth. The cleaning also includes root surfaces, below the gumline. Antimicrobial medicine may also be applied to the gums.

Three months after treatment, people showed improvement in their RA. This was measured in several ways:

  • Disease activity score (DAS28) – This is a commonly used measure of rheumatoid arthritis activity. The 28 refers to the 28 joints that are examined.
  • C-reactive protein – Found in the blood, this protein is a measure of inflammation.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate – A measure of how fast red blood cells fall to the bottom of an upright glass tube. A faster rate translates to increased inflammation in the body.
  • Tumor necrosis factor alpha – This is a small molecule produced by immune cells. Inflammation leads to higher levels of this molecule.

Other studies have shown similar improvements in RA symptoms after periodontal treatment. Australian researchers reviewed 19 studies that focused on RA and periodontal disease. The authors of the review concluded that the two conditions may be linked in some way. Some of the same factors may increase the risk of both conditions. Or a similar disease-causing process may lead to both conditions.

The Turkish study appears in the May issue of the journal Oral Diseases. The Australian review was published in the May issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

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