More and more, scientists are discovering links between various health conditions. For instance, periodontal disease has been linked to a number of serious health issues including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and strokes. However, the links don’t end there—researchers have also determined that there are certain oral conditions often found in people with diabetes.
How Has the Link Between Diabetes and Oral Health Been Studied?
A study was done of 600 patients in New York by Dr. Ira Lamster, dean of Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, and his colleagues. All of the patients were over the age of 30, and most of them had at least one risk factor for diabetes—a family history of the condition, hypertension, obesity, or high cholesterol.
Each patient received a dental examination and an A1C test, a blood test that provides information about a person’s average blood glucose levels over the past three months. During a subsequent appointment, patients also received a fasting glucose test to determine if they had diabetes or prediabetes.
What Did Researchers Discover?
During the periodontal examination, dentists focused on just two things—the number of missing teeth each patient had, and their percentage of deep periodontal pockets. Periodontal pockets are deep spaces around the teeth that are caused by inflammation and swelling from plaque and tartar.
Researchers discovered that oral health is actually an excellent indicator of whether a person has diabetes. Specifically, they found that four or more missing teeth, or at least 26% deep periodontal pockets accurately predicted diabetes or prediabetes 73% of the time. When they looked at the A1C results with the periodontal examination, they were able to identify diabetes and prediabetes 92% of the time.
I’m Diabetic. Will Taking Better Care of My Teeth Help Control My Blood Sugar?
It might—there’s a definite link between your oral health and diabetes. For instance, people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease. If you’re diabetic and already have periodontal disease, you may find it harder to control your blood sugar. Periodontal disease means an infection is present, and all infections can cause blood sugar to rise.
Bottom line? If you’re diabetic, it’s even more important that you take good care of your teeth.
Can Herrick Dental Diagnose Diabetes?
While we can’t diagnose diabetes or prediabetes—only your physician can do that—we can tell you if your oral health puts you at risk. By examining your mouth, we can determine whether you already have periodontal pockets or stand a good chance of developing them in the future.
Having said that, if you’re at risk for diabetes, we encourage you to take excellent care of your teeth. That means brushing twice a day for two minutes each time, flossing daily, and coming in every six months for regular checkups. By making your oral health a priority, you can prevent tooth loss and gum disease, the biggest oral risk factors associated with diabetes.
Speaking of oral health, If you’re due for a dental checkup, we make it easy to schedule your visit. Simply click here to fill out our online appointment request form or call us at 614.891.0440. We’re pleased to offer evening appointments for your convenience.« Back to blog