Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Treating oral disease may help reduce arthritis

By Dental Tribune International
October 24, 2012

ADELAIDE, Australia: Although previous studies have found a link between rheumatoid arthritis and tooth loss in patients, the complex relationship between the two conditions is not yet understood by scientists. However, the findings of a new study, presented last week at the Fresh Science national finals in Melbourne, suggest that it might be possible to treat gum disease and severe arthritis simultaneously.

In laboratory tests, the researchers replicated both conditions, which are the result of inflammatory responses in the body, by inducing gum disease and arthritis in mice, said Melissa Cantley, a student at the University of Adelaide’s School of Medical Sciences, who is researching the link between the two diseases as part of her doctoral studies.

They found that animals with gum disease developed significantly worse arthritis. In addition, they observed signs of bone loss in the jaws of mice with arthritis alone and signs of bone loss in the joints of mice with gum disease alone. “So not only did gum disease influence the joint tissue, but arthritis also influenced tissue in the mouth,” Cantley said.

Cantley and her colleagues are now testing whether treating periodontitis could also help to reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis by researching histone deacetylase inhibitors, compounds already used in psychiatry and as anti-cancer agents, which are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Alongside dental caries, periodontal disease is considered the most important global oral health burden, according to the WHO. Severe periodontitis, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 5 to 15 per cent of most populations. Juvenile or early-onset aggressive periodontitis, which affects individuals during puberty and leads to premature tooth loss, affects about 2 per cent of young people, the organisation stated. The researchers said that more than 60 per cent of the world’s population suffer from periodontitis.

Fresh Science is an annual event intended to enhance reporting of Australian science. It takes place at the Melbourne Museum.

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