Possible Link Between Gum Disease and Failed Joints

Dental Professor Nabil Bissada had a hunch: could gum disease be linked to joint problems? He recruited patients who had bad joints, many of whom had undergone hip or knee replacement surgery. Their artificial joints were failing, and he wanted to know why.

"Most of the time," says Bissada, "the orthopedic surgeon knows why those fail, but we looked into the few cases which they cannot find a good reason to explain the failure of the joint."

What Bissada's team found was a tentative link between gum disease and failed artificial joints.

In three of the 36 cases they found the same bacteria that's present in gum disease in the fluid surrounding the failed artificial joint.

This research was published in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.

This pilot study doesn't determine cause and effect but researchers say it's enough to warrant further study.

Gum disease, by the way, is very treatable--especially if you catch it before the bacteria hits the bloodstream and travels to other parts of the body.

RELATED: A panel of experts now question whether gum disease contributes to heart health, in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Read NPR's full story on this here.

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