You don’t need to be a southern Oregon Coast dentist to know that tooth decay and gum disease can cause more problems than just to the health of our teeth and gums. Patients who regularly read our blog know that tooth decay and gum disease have been linked to a variety of health problems that range from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. However, of all the diseases studies have linked to gum disease, its relationship with diabetes ranks as the strongest.
Previous research has shown that severe gum disease – known as periodontitis – often coexists with diabetes.
What do you mean “coexists?” Well, patients who have trouble managing their diabetes have a higher risk of developing an infection like periodontitis. Patients with diabetes that have gum disease have a harder time managing their diabetes, making it more likely that their early stage gum disease progresses into the far more severe periodontitis. So when researchers say these two diseases coexist, they’re describing the symbiotic relationship that exists between them.
Now, a new study published recently in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal has taken this relationship a step further by suggesting that treating periodontitis may actually help diabetes patients better manage their blood sugar levels, and could even reduce their risk for developing complications related to their diabetes.
Conducted by a team of researchers from the Eastman Dental Institute at University College London, the study’s findings were the first to link intensive gum disease treatments to a reduction in systemic inflammation, and improvements in both blood vessel and kidney function.
While researchers admitted that further study was needed, they stated that the improvements in blood sugar control they observed were similar in effect to what’s typically seen in patients who take prescription medication to help manage their glucose levels. The result of this study could mean that oral health professionals from your southern Oregon Coast dentist to dentists working in the skyscrapers of Manhattan could soon play a bigger role in helping patients manage their diabetes.
As part of their study, researchers conducted a 12-month trial that involved the participation of 264 patients with moderate to severe periodontitis and type 2 diabetes. Volunteers who participated in the study had at least 15 permanent teeth remaining and were currently receiving dental care.
Roughly half of the participants received intensive gum disease treatment consisting of root scaling and surgical therapy. The other group received standard care that included root scaling and planing. All of the gum disease treatments were conducted while the participants were taking any prescribed medication for their diabetes.
Patient who received the intensive gum disease treatment therapy showed a reduction in HbA1c after one year. HbA1c is the number that records a patient’s average blood sugar level. Patients with a high HbA1c have too much sugar in their blood, and are more likely to develop complications from their diabetes.
Researchers said that intensive gum disease treatment was able to improve a patient’s ability to better control their blood sugar levels after 12 months when compared to standard gum disease care. Additionally, researchers noted that patients who lowered their blood sugar levels also show improve kidney and vascular function, reduced inflammation throughout the body, and better overall quality of life.
“Our findings, that reduction in periodontitis, which is a common cause of inflammation, improves vascular, renal, as well as blood glucose control, in people with type 2 diabetes, are exciting and could lead to new strategies to improve care,” wrote researchers.
The team recommended that doctors treating patients with diabetes need to discuss the importance of the patient’s oral health and consider adding additional dental care into their treatment plan.