What does your dental health say about your risk for diabetes?
04/19/2018 // Michelle Simmons // Views

How healthy are your teeth? A new study suggested that your dental health may indicate your risk for diabetes. The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the U.S. and Taiwan, found that poor dental health may be associated with a higher risk for diabetes.

“Our findings suggest that dental exams may provide a way to identify someone at risk for developing diabetes,” said Raynald Samoa, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California.

The researchers of the study looked at the effect of glucose tolerance on dental health in over 9,000 individuals in the U.S. In the study, they reviewed the records of 9,670 adults aged 20 and over who were examined by dentists during the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2009 to 2014. Moreover, they assessed the participants' reported body mass index (BMI) and glucose tolerance states by fasting plasma glucose, two-hour postchallenge plasma glucose, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), established diabetes, and whether the condition was treated with oral agents or insulin. In addition, they recorded the numbers of missing teeth because of cavities, and periodontal disease for individual patients. Furthermore, they identified the relationship between glucose tolerance and dental condition by taking factors, such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, family record of diabetes, smoking status, alcohol intake, education, and poverty index, into consideration.

Results of the study suggested that there was a progressive increase in the number of patients with missing teeth as their glucose tolerance deteriorated, from 45.57 percent in the group with normal glucose tolerance, to 67.61 percent in the group with abnormal glucose tolerance, to 82.87 percent in the group with diabetes mellitus. Moreover, all factors, except for gender, significantly affected the number of missing teeth. The lowest average number of missing teeth was found in the group with normal glucose tolerance with 2.26. Then followed by the abnormal glucose tolerance group, and the diabetes mellitus group, with the averages of 4.41 and 6.80, respectively.


“We found a progressive positive relationship between worsening glucose tolerance and the number of missing teeth. Although a causal relationship cannot be inferred from this cross-sectional study, it demonstrates that poor dental outcome can be observed before the onset of overt diabetes,” explained Samoa.

Writing in their abstract, the researchers predicted that by 2050, approximately 30 percent of Americans would be affected by diabetes. They also wrote that since the 1930s, periodontal disease and dental cavities have been associated with diabetes.

The findings of the study was presented at the 100th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago, Illinois.

Diabetes and dental health

As mentioned above, the status of your dental health can indicate your risk for diabetes. Meanwhile, diabetes can also affect the mouth. Too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood due to diabetes can lead to pain, infection, and other problems in the mouth, including the teeth, gums, jaw, and mouth tissues.

When a patient's diabetes is not controlled, high glucose levels in the saliva can encourage harmful bacteria to grow. In turn, these bacteria mix with food to create a soft, sticky film called plaque. Plaque is formed due to foods that contain sugars and starches. Some types of plaque can lead to tooth decay or cavities, while others can result in gum disease and bad breath.

Since people with diabetes are more at risk of developing oral and dental problems, it is important to take extra measures to keep their mouth healthy. One of the ways to keep the mouth healthy is to keep blood sugar levels as healthy as possible. In addition to brushing regularly and flossing, limit or avoid foods and drinks rich in sugar. (Related: Forget to floss? You may be putting yourself at risk of more serious health conditions.)

Read more news stories and studies on diabetes by going to DiabetesScienceNews.com.

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