Periodontal Maintenance Improves Diabetic Health

For diabetic adults who also have gum disease, being diligent with cleanings and other gum disease procedures, might significantly reduce risks and medical costs associated with diabetes.

Past research has developed an association between periodontal disease and diabetes, suggesting that diabetics are at higher risk for developing the condition. Periodontal disease is characterized by an inflammation of the gums surrounding the teeth, and is caused by bacterial infection. In addition to the common risks associated with periodontal disease, such as tooth loss and gum ulcers (open sores), the current study is suggesting that the bacteria associated with periodontal disease, if not treated, can lead to diabetic complications.

The researchers note the occurrence of “poor diabetes control” that is present in many diabetics, and is characterized by high blood sugar levels. It’s believed in the medical field that many complications associated with diabetes, such as vision loss, amputations, kidney, and cardiovascular diseases, are often preventable in diabetics if their condition was properly treated, or “controlled.” This could mean improving eating and exercise habits, better monitoring blood sugar levels and insulin administration, or treating other risk factors or subsequent conditions, such as periodontal disease.

2,674 patients between 18-64 years of age were monitored in the study, which took place at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. It was found that “insured adults with diabetes in Michigan who received routine periodontal treatment, such as dental cleanings and scaling, have significantly lower medical care costs than those who do not,” says lead researcher Dr. George Taylor. Specifically, it was found that for diabetic patients receiving between one and four periodontal treatments annually, their medical care costs decreased by between 11-12%.

Dr. Taylor gives a simple explanation for these results; “Cleanings and other non-surgical periodontal treatment remove the harmful bacteria. We believe this helps prevent the body from producing those harmful chemicals that can enter the systemic circulation and contribute to poorer diabetes control.”

While there are many important factors that contribute to better diabetes control, with nutrition and exercise being the most important, simple periodontal maintenance has now been shown to be a factor as well. While the study only revealed declining medical costs as a result of periodontal treatment, the lower costs imply that there were lesser complications, with less severity, in these diabetic patients. This means that simply going to the dentist for a thorough tooth cleaning could actually help prevent major health complications, such as kidney disease, in diabetics. “The results of our analyses provide additional evidence supporting a beneficial role for periodontal treatment in improving overall health for people with diabetes,” concludes Dr. Taylor.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Taylor, George. Bailey, Laura. University of Michigan press release. December 2008.