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Can clean teeth stave off rheumatoid arthritis?

Everybody knows that regularly brushing your teeth is the best way to stave off dental caries, reduce bad breath and avoid fillings. However, new research shows that there may be even more benefits to keeping your mouth clean and healthy, as a link has been found between dental hygiene and rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is what is known as an ‘autoimmune’ disease, meaning that it is caused by the immune system attacking cells in the body. It causes swelling in the joints, particularly those in the hands and feet.

The link to teeth brushing comes from the bacterium that causes gum disease. This bacterium produces an enzyme known as peptidylarginine deiminanse (PAD), which changes proteins in the body into a different chemical known as citrulline. The immune system does not recognise citrulline, and so attacks it.

This does not cause rheumatoid arthritis, but enhances a very similar disease known as collagen-induced arthritis. This makes rheumatoid arthritis more likely, and makes the effects far worse.

This was the discovery of scientists at the University of Louisville’s School of Dentistry in Kentucky. The link between gum disease and the PAD enzyme means that cleaning teeth is more important than ever.

Poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of gum disease, and the longer and more severe it is, the more PAD will get produced. This is not a simple cause-and-effect scenario, as some people with gum disease may never develop rheumatoid arthritis. However, the more PAD in a person’s system, the more likely it is that they will develop the disease.

Furthermore, large amounts of PAD increase the intensity of rheumatoid arthritis, and causes the disease to develop at an earlier age. This means that people with poor oral hygiene are at risk of causing themselves to struggle with joint pain at a relatively young age.

Dentists already try to encourage the best oral health possible, however now there is yet another reason to do so. With tooth decay becoming the world’s most widespread non-contagious disease, it is important that dentists promote the best standard of dental health possible.

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