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Gum Disease Tied To Diabetes Risk

Jul 29, 2008

Now we can add gum disease to the list of medical problems that people with diabetes are at risk for. Dentists should be added to the diabetes team, so when diabetic patients are sitting in the dentists chair, your dentist can help in the education process.

People with moderate to severe gum disease may have an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the results of a new study suggests.


Researchers found that among nearly 9,300 U.S. adults who were followed for 17 years, those who began the study with gum disease were more likely to develop diabetes later on. Men and women with moderate gum disease had twice the risk of diabetes as those with healthy gums, while substantial tooth loss was linked to a 70 percent higher risk.

The findings, published in the journal Diabetes Care, do not prove that gum disease causes diabetes in some people. But the study is the first to show such a temporal association between the two conditions; the relationship between diabetes and gum disease is well-known, but it has traditionally been assumed that gum disease is solely a consequence of diabetes.

Lead researcher Dr. Ryan T. Demmer, of Columbia University in New York stated that, "The pertinent finding was our observation that periodontal disease can precede the onset of overt type 2 diabetes."

He added, however, that more studies are needed both to prove that gum disease directly contributes to type 2 diabetes, and, from there, that treating the dental problem can prevent diabetes.

"It would be inappropriate, based on our findings, to definitively say that better oral health will reduce an individual’s risk of diabetes development," Demmer said.

Still, the findings are in line with research suggesting that gum disease is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Gum disease arises from bacterial infection, and it is thought that chronic, systemic inflammation in response to the bacteria may contribute to cardiovascular disease.

In theory, this could also explain the link to diabetes. Demmer noted that inflammatory molecules could, for instance, affect the body’s sensitivity to the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin. For now, though, that is a theory.
Diabetes Care, July 2008.


Number of Patients with Diabetes Climbs to 24 Million: The prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. in 2007 was estimated at 23.6 million patients — or 7.8% of the population — an increase of three million cases since 2005, according to the CDC. Patients 60 and older remained disproportionately affected, with the prevalence of the disease reaching 23.1% in that age group.  In addition, the CDC said, 57 million patients had pre-diabetes.   See This Weeks’ Item #3


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