It has long been predicted that poor dental hygiene could be a contributing factor in developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). New findings have now been published in the Science Translational Medicine Journal that have significant implications for the treatment and even prevention of the potentially debilitating autoimmune disease.
The findings show that the same bacteria that causes infections in the gum can also be a trigger for RA. When the bacteria that causes gum disease, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, is present, it stimulates the production of proteins. These proteins have a negative effect on the immune system and cause it to work less efficiently. The research team from John Hopkins University found that in people with RA, the natural process of producing proteins becomes overactive, which causes the damage and inflammation of the tissue within the joints.
It is worth noting, however, that the findings are not water tight, as half of the RA patients participating in the study did not have any form of gum disease at the time. Researchers have theorized that this could indicate the presence of bacteria present in other areas such as the lungs, gut or possibly elsewhere. The lead researcher, Dr Maximilian Konig was quoted in the Daily Mail, “This research may be the closest we have come to uncovering the root cause of RA.”