Who would have thought a visit to the dentist could save you from debilitating joint pain? After all, at each appointment, all the dentist will tell you is “Floss daily, brush regularly, and come see me in six months’ time.”
However, this advice goes further than simply keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Research published in PLOS Pathogens has shown that the bacteria that causes periodontal (gum) disease can cause rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
How gum disease causes rheumatoid arthritis
“Both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gum disease share astonishingly similar clinical features,” says lead study author, Professor Jan Potempa.
This may sound strange because gum disease is an infection problem, while RA is an autoimmune disease. However, they’re both inflammatory diseases. This means that they cause your immune system to attack its own tissues. This then causes tooth loss as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
“You can blame it on porphyromonas gingivalis. This is the only known bacterium that causes an unnatural modification of proteins that, when our immune system is on high alert due to inflammation, sees as the enemy. These proteins can be anywhere in your body. However, when they’re in your joints, that’s the beginning of a swifter progression of painful RA.” says Professor Jan Potempa
Who would have thought? There’s a way around all this. These proteins can take up to ten years to negatively affect your joints. So, here’s what you should do…
Don’t be afraid to use enough floss
Cut off a piece about 35cm to 40cm long. This may sound like a lot, but you have to have enough to keep a clean segment in place as you move from tooth to tooth. Wrap most of the floss around either your middle finger, and another small amount onto the middle finger of the other hand. When you use your middle finger, you leave your index finger free to manipulate the floss.
Sliding between your teeth forming a “C”
Slide the floss gently between the teeth in a zigzag motion. You have to be careful not to let the floss snap or break between your teeth. Ensure that you make a C shape with the floss as you wrap it around each tooth. Then, pull the floss upward from the gum line to the top of the tooth gently.
Roll along and reach for both sides
As you move from one tooth to another, unroll a fresh section of floss from the finger of one hand while rolling the used floss onto the finger of the other hand. I like to use my thumb as a guide. When you do this, you prevent the spread of bacteria from tooth to tooth. Don’t forget to floss the back side of each tooth.
Next time you visit your dentist, remember, it’s for your joints too.