In our Burlingame Dental Arts blog, we have continued to highlight the surprising connections that exists between our oral and overall health. New studies continue to shine a light on how common oral health problems – such as gum disease, tooth loss and tooth decay – increase our risk for a variety of chronic health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
While previous research has shown connections that suggest gum disease often co-exists with diabetes, a new study published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal has gone a step further to suggest that treating gum disease could actually help patients with type 2 diabetes better manage their blood glucose levels, and could reduce their risk of complications developing due to their diabetes.
Conducted by a team at the Eastman Dental Institute at University College London, researchers said their findings were the first to link intensive gum disease treatments to a reduction in systemic inflammation, and improvements in blood vessel and kidney function.
While researchers cautioned that further study was needed before a clear cause and effect relationship could be established, they were cautiously optimistic about what the results of their study suggested. “The improvement in blood glucose control we observed, in people who received intensive treatment, is similar to the effect that’s seen when people with type 2 diabetes are prescribed a second blood glucose lowering drug,” wrote lead researcher Professor Francesco D’Aiuto.
Researchers now believe the next step of their study should focus on whether the improvements they noted can be maintained over the long-term and if they apply to all patients with type 2 diabetes.
Study Finds New Potential for Treating Diabetes Patients
As part of their study, researchers created a 12 month, single-center, parallel-group, randomized trial that involved 264 participants with type 2 diabetes and moderate to severe gum disease. Each of the participants had at least 15 remaining teeth and were patients at one of four hospitals in London.
Roughly half of the participants received intensive treatment for gum disease that involved a subgingival scaling and surgical periodontal therapy. The other part of the study group received standard care that included supra-gingival scaling and polishing. All of the treatments took place along with taking any medication the participants were prescribed to help manage their diabetes.
When compared to the participants in the control group, patients who received intensive periodontal treatment showed a reduction in their blood sugar levels after 12 months.
Helping to Reduce Inflammation
When commenting on the results of their study, researchers said that intensive periodontal treatment “improves metabolic control in patients with type 2 diabetes after 12 months when compared with usual care.” Additionally, researchers also noted that improved blood sugar control also resulted in “improved vascular and kidney function, reduced system inflammation and improved quality of life.”
Researchers pointed out that gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that often coexists alongside of diabetes. The buildup of bacteria on the surface of a patient’s teeth is not limited to only the mouth, as an association exists where the more severe a patient’s gum disease the higher their risk becomes for a range of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.
What the results of this study suggest is the continuing notion that a connection exists between the mouth and body. While dental care is often viewed by patients as only relating to the health of their teeth and gums, further evidence continues to reinforce the idea that better oral health directly leads to better overall health.
This means that scheduling regular exams and cleanings with the team at Burlingame Dental Arts is not only an important preventative tool, but also one of the easiest ways to help lower the risk of a more serious underlying health problem from developing in the future.