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Periodontal disease, tooth loss and incident rheumatoid arthritis: results from the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and its epidemiological follow-up study


  • This work was supported by NIH grant R00 DE-018739 to R.T.D. He also received support from R01 DE-13094. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.


Ryan Demmer

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Infection may be a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) risk factor. We examined whether signs of periodontal infection were associated with RA development in the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and its epidemiological follow-up study.

Material and Methods

In 1971–1974, 9702 men and women aged 25–74 were enrolled and surveyed longitudinally (1982, 1986, 1987, 1992). Periodontal infection was defined by baseline tooth loss or clinical evidence of periodontal disease. Baseline (n = 138) and incident (n = 433) RA cases were defined via self-report physician diagnosis, joint pain/swelling, ICD-9 codes (714.0–714.9), death certificates and/or RA hospitalization.


Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) (95% CI) for prevalent RA in gingivitis and periodontitis (versus healthy) were 1.09 (0.57, 2.10) and 1.85 (0.95, 3.63); incident RA ORs were 1.32 (0.85, 2.06) and 1.00 (0.68, 1.48). The ORs for prevalent RA among participants missing 5–8, 9–14, 15–31 or 32 teeth (versus 0–4 teeth) were 1.74 (1.03, 2.95), 1.82 (0.81, 4.10), 1.45 (0.62, 3.41) and 1.30 (0.48, 3.53); ORs for incident RA were 1.12 (0.77, 1.64), 1.67 (1.12, 2.48), 1.40 (0.85, 2.33) and 1.22 (0.75, 2.00). Dose-responsiveness was enhanced among never smokers. The rate of death or loss-to-follow-up after 1982 was two- to fourfold higher among participants with periodontitis or missing ≥9 teeth (versus healthy participants).


Although participants with periodontal disease or ≥5 missing teeth experienced higher odds of prevalent/incident RA, most ORs were non-statistically significant and lacked dose-responsiveness. Differential RA ascertainment bias complicated the interpretation of these data.

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