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Early Signs of Arthritis in the Mouth

A common gum disease may indicate a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis later in life, according to a report published in Medical Hypotheses.

Prof Mark Bartold of the University of Adelaide explains that a number of processes occur in the body when someone develops gum disease. “When people start to show signs and symptoms of gingivitis or early periodontitis, their bodies may have already been experiencing a process of modification of proteins [called citrullination and carbamylation] and the production of auto-antibodies to these altered proteins,” he said. “This process can occur quite early in life – anywhere from the mid-20s to early-30s.

“Because rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t usually start to affect people until after 35, identifying these processes in people with periodontitis may indicate they will develop rheumatoid arthritis later in life,” he said.

However, not all people with periodontitis will get rheumatoid arthritis and vice versa. “Rheumatoid arthritis is a lot less common than periodontitis, affecting only 1% of the population,” Bartold says. “This finding suggests that those who are susceptible to both conditions have already been “primed” for the arthritis through what’s happened in their gums.”

Bartold says that further research could lead to new diagnostic tools and therapies for rheumatoid arthritis. “The next stage of the research will look at ways to block the processes of citrullination and carbamylation and see how that impacts the development of rheumatoid arthritis,” he said.