Rheumatoid arthritis, vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis

Periodontal disease has been associated with heart problems. Now investigators find that such gum infections may also be tied to the autoimmune condition rheumatoid arthritis.

What Is the Connection?

The study identified a type of bacteria, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, that provokes the immune system into overreacting in both gum disease and severe arthritis. Doctors have long suspected a link between RA and periodontal infections, but they had not identified the responsible germ.

Protein Citrullination:

A. actinomycetemcomitans apparently puts a process called protein citrullination into overdrive. Hypercitrullination in turn signals the immune system to produce antibodies against these proteins.

Autoimmune Destruction:

The antibodies also attack the individual’s tissues and cause destruction. That is a hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis.

Not everyone with rheumatoid arthritis is infected with the bacteria that has been identified, so the researchers will now be looking for others that act in a similar manner to trigger an overactive autoimmune response. It might eventually lead to the development of medications that could kill the germs triggering the inflammation and thus stop joint destruction before it gets too far along.

Science Translational Medicine, Dec. 14, 2016

Other risk factors have been identified for rheumatoid arthritis. Some research shows that people who have been exposed to mercury are more likely to develop RA. Sun exposure (and presumably the attendant vitamin D produced by sunlit skin) appears to be protective.

Rheumatoid arthritis has also been associated with inflammation of the blood vessels (Best Practice & Research. Clinical Rheumatology, Oct., 2016). We don’t know if the inflammation is caused by infection with A. actinomycetemcomitans, but infection may cause inflammation, and inflammation of blood vessels might contribute to heart trouble. Other infections, such as Bartonella, have also been linked to RA.

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  1. Robert

    I had inflamed gums when I was around 20. I couldn’t afford to see a dentist until it was an emergency, that was a root canal. The dentist advised me to see a periodontist but affordability. About 4 years later I began to have symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis (which at the time was not diagnosed as such) – my back was as stiff as a board. Ten years later, gum disease, and continued back flare-ups, I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (pSA). Now I’m 63 and have developed psoriatic arthritis. I have always thought that something must have triggered these health issues. Unfortunately even though my gums are under control, these diseases have not gone away. I think there are a variety of triggers that initiate these inflammatory diseases and it’s different for everyone.

  2. Carole
    New Jersey

    I was diagnosed with periodontal disease back in the early 90s. Approx. 10 yrs. later I was diagnosed with RA. Surprised to hear that there’s a correlation between the two…..makes sense!!!!

  3. gary
    IL 60016

    I had a cracked root canal that became infected, the infection finally peaked and the tooth was removed. Total time was 9 months, this infection cause major problems with my joints from then on and I still have issues in the morning with stiff joints which I did not have prior to the infection. I was 69 at the time. Why did this go on for so long? My dentist said if the discomfort in my tooth was a cracked root canal, it would take 3 to 4 months for it to show up on x-ray. Well after 5 months I did have mouth issues but not that bad that a mild salt rinse would not fix. Then because of a poison ivy infection on my leg, which turned into Celeritous I was given antibiotics for that. That antibiotic also stopped the tooth problem, for a while. It was a perfect storm. Take care of your teeth, I have to live with the joints now. A side note, if it would have gone much longer they said it could have infected my heart and well, I would not be writing this.

  4. Laura

    I have a friend who was told to take Co Q 10 (Ubiquinol for those over 30) for her heart problems. She had been receiving dental care for her gums every few months for a while. After starting the Co Q 10, the next dental visit, the dentist looked at her gums and said they were cured! He asked what she was doing, she told him the only change was the Co Q 10. He told her that our gums and our heart are the same kind of tissue, and that was no doubt why the difference.

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