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Taking Care of Your Teeth Could Help Prevent Arthritis and Joint Pain

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Taking care of your teeth could help prevent chronic joint pain, according to a scientist who spotted a clue in discarded data.

Rice University computational biologist Vicky Yao found traces of bacteria associated with periodontal disease in samples collected from rheumatoid arthritis patients, helping spur research that confirmed a connection between the diseases.

Tracing this connection between the two conditions could help develop therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune inflammatory disease that attacks the lining of the joints and can cause heart-, lung- and eye-problems.

It underlines the importance of regular brushing—and the new research approach also could prove fruitful for other diseases, such as cancer.

“I was curious about this tool that allowed you to detect microbes floating around in human samples,” said Dr. Yao, the lead author of the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “This data perhaps holds more information than we are immediately able to derive from it.”

Yao’s hunch was confirmed when she took a deeper look into data collected from rheumatoid arthritis patients by colleagues at Rockefeller University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute working with on a different project that tracked changes in gene expression during arthritis attacks.

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