Rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease

Joint Bone Spine. 2010 Dec;77(6):537-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jbspin.2010.04.015. Epub 2010 Jun 19.


The prevalence of periodontal disease has increased two-fold among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) compared to the general population. This increased prevalence is unrelated to secondary Sjögren's syndrome but instead reflects shared pathogenic mechanisms, including an increased prevalence of the shared epitope HLA-DRB1-04; exacerbated T-cell responsiveness with high tissue levels of IL-17; exaggerated B-cell responses, with plasma cells being the predominant cell type found within gingival tissue affected with periodontitis and B cells being twice as numerous as T cells; RANK overexpression; and an increase in the ratio of RANK-L over osteoprotegerin with a high level of RANK-L expression on gingival B cells, most notably those capable of recognizing Porphyromonas gingivalis. Other factors conducive to periodontitis include smoking and infection with the Epstein-Barr virus or cytomegalovirus, which act by promoting the growth of organisms such as P. gingivalis, whose DNA is often found in synovial tissue from RA patients. P. gingivalis produces the enzyme peptidylarginine deiminase that induces citrullination of various autoantigens, and levels of anti-CCP antibodies are considerably higher in RA patients with than without periodontal disease, suggesting that periodontitis may contribute to the pathogenesis of RA. Further support for this hypothesis comes from evidence that other antigens involved in RA, such as HC-gp39, are also present in gingival tissue. TNFα antagonists slow alveolar resorption but may perpetuate infection of periodontal pockets. Therefore, rheumatology patients, including those taking biotherapies, are likely to benefit from increased referral to dental care (e.g., scaling, root planing and, if needed, dental surgery), particularly as periodontitis is also associated with an increased risk of premature atheroma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / genetics
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Bone Resorption / physiopathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / epidemiology
  • Gingiva / immunology
  • Gingiva / microbiology
  • Gingiva / pathology
  • HLA-DR Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Humans
  • Peptides, Cyclic / immunology
  • Periodontitis / epidemiology*
  • Periodontitis / genetics
  • Periodontitis / immunology
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis / immunology
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis / isolation & purification
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis / pathogenicity
  • RANK Ligand / metabolism
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • RANK Ligand
  • cyclic citrullinated peptide