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Study finds arthritis, tooth-loss connection

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Swollen joints and missing teeth may go hand in hand, according to a new study in the Journal of Periodontology.

In the Australian study of 1,330 people, exactly half have had rheumatoid arthritis and they were more than twice as likely to have periodontal disease with moderate to severe jawbone loss as the control subjects. In addition, they averaged 11.6 missing teeth, compared to 6.7 in the control group.

The two medical problems have similar pathologies, according to Robert Genco, a dentist who is the journal's editor. "Damage caused by the immune system and chronic inflammation are central to both diseases. A better understanding of the biological processes common to these diseases may help us find new ways to treat them with medications that modify the body's response to inflammation.

At this point, researchers are not saying the two diseases are related by a causal link. But they think a bacterial infection may trigger the disease process in some of the 2.1 million people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Some dental professionals speculate the people with rheumatoid arthritis have more periodontal disease because limited dexterity decreases oral hygiene. But researchers found no difference in plaque deposits between those with the arthritis and the control group.

For a free brochure on Periodontal care, call 1-800-FLOSSEM or go online at www.perio.org.