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Dental Abscess and Arthritis

written by: efrontiers • edited by: Tania Cowling • updated: 11/29/2010

There have been suspicions in the medical field that dental abscess and arthritis are connected to one another. This article presents an overview of arthritis associated with dental abscess.

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    Periodontitis

    Periodontitis is defined as an inflammatory disease involving the peridontium or the tissues around the teeth. Periodontal diseases are classified into seven categories, and this article focuses on one type called abscesses of the peridontium or dental abscess.

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    Dental Abscess

    A dental abscess is characterized by a collection of pus, a thick fluid containing bacteria, dead tissues and white blood cells. The abscess involves an infection of the mouth, throat, jaw and even the whole face. It usually starts with the infection of a tooth’s center, known as caries or tooth cavity, and spreading to the infection of the supporting bones and the adjacent tissues.

    The bacterial infection is normally caused by the lack of proper dental care or an underlying disorder, particularly those involving the immune system. Other possible causes include diabetes, trauma in the oral cavity or treatments for cancer.

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    Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis is chronic joint disease that affects millions of individuals worldwide. The disease causes the soft tissues around the joints to swell and thicken, and the cartilage begins to erode as well.

    Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis, characterized by joint damage from stress due to wear and tear. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, a form of autoimmune disorder, the body’s immune system attacks its own the joints causing inflammation and pain.

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    How Are They Related?

    One particular study from Australia, published in the Journal of Periodontology, found that arthritis associated with dental abscess and other periodontal infections is real.

    In the study, the participants who had rheumatoid arthritis were more than twice as likely to have periodontal disease compared to participants in the control group. The periodontal disease may involve moderate to severe jawbone loss. The researchers, however, did not generalize that the relationship between the two diseases is casual.

    On the other hand, Dr. Gerald Smith presented a case revealing the connection between dental infections and rheumatoid infection. Smith pointed out that dental infections are one of the often ignored causes of rheumatoid arthritis.

    Dental infections due to gum disease, an infected root canal tooth, or the site of a previously extracted tooth can be the source of problem. When protein structures start to degenerate, bacteria, viruses, and fungi can combine to produce thiol ethers, a form of toxin. These toxins can be circulated to the whole body and can be concentrated on the knee, hands, and other joints. This triggers the attack of the immune system causing inflammation and pain of the joints.

    In the case study of Dr. Smith, the patient named MT had a root canal treatment that resulted in a streptococcus infection. However, the problem was very difficult to identify because the x-ray of the tooth showed no pathology. Unfortunately, 75% or more cases of infected root canal treated teeth show no signs of pain or swelling. The main problem is that toxic waste products from the dental foci are released to distant sites in the body.

    In trying to solve the problem for 34 years, the usual medical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis were employed. These treatments include prednisone, steroid, chemotherapy drugs, methotrexate, and a deactivating drug, Enbrel. These treatments had only treated the symptoms but not the main problem.

    Using a non-invasive 1930s technology, the streptococcal infection was resolved by removing the infected root canal tooth.

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    With the above scientific evidences, the connection between rheumatoid arthritis and dental abscess and infections is already clear. It should be noted that individuals with diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop periodontitis and dental abscess. Meanwhile, dental abscess and infections can also cause an autoimmune response, which later develops into rheumatoid arthritis.

    It is advised that you work together with your doctor to monitor your individual case considering the above medical findings.