Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition - where your immune system attacks your own body - that causes swelling in the joints of the body, especially around the hands, feet and wrists.
So where does brushing your teeth fit in? According to US researchers, there is a link between the bacterium that causes gum disease, and how early the arthritis develops and how severe it is.
Scientists at the University of Louisville’s School of Dentistry in Kentucky discovered that gum disease produces a unique enzyme, which 'enhances' collagen-induced arthritis - a type of arthritis similar to rheumatoid arthritis.
The enzyme - called peptidylarginine deiminanse (PAD) - then changes proteins in the body into a different protein called citrulline. The body identifies citrulline as an intruder and then attacks it. For people who have rheumatoid arthritis or those who are prone to it, this means chronic inflammation.
Story continues below the slideshow:
Previously studies, reported the Mail Online, reveal that gum disease is at least twice "more prevalent in rheumatoid arthritis patients."
Led by Jan Potempa and his team, they also studied another oral bacterium for the same affect, but learned it did not produce the same effects.
This is usually a throbbing and aching sort of pain. Often worse in the mornings and after you have been sitting still for a while. Pain is often felt while you are resting, not after activity.
Joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis can feel stiff, especially in the morning. Morning stiffness associated with a kind of arthritis called osteoarthritis usually wears off within 30 minutes of getting up. However, rheumatoid arthritis morning stiffness usually lasts longer than half an hour.
Warmth and redness
The lining of the affected joint becomes inflamed, causing the joints to swell, and become hot, tender to touch and painful.
Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inflammation around the joints, such as rheumatoid nodules, and in other parts of your body. The condition can also cause inflammation of your tear glands, salivary glands, the lining of your heart and lungs, and your blood vessels.
"Taken together, our results suggest that bacterial PAD may constitute the mechanistic link between P. gingivalis periodontal infection and rheumatoid arthritis, but this ground-breaking conclusion will need to be verified with further research," he said.
Potempa said he is hopeful these findings will shed new light on the treatment and prevention of rheumatoid arthritis.