If you’ve got diabetes, you probably already know that diabetes can take a toll on your teeth and gums. There is a well-established connection between diabetes, tooth decay, and gum disease. Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar, which results in high blood sugar levels. The higher your blood sugar level, the higher your risk of cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis.
But a new study by University of Pennsylvania researchers may shed new light on exactly why this happens. The study, supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, shows that unmanaged diabetes changes bacteria in the mouth so that microbes are more capable of causing disease. That means more inflammation of the gums and bone loss.*
Researchers hope these findings on the oral microbiome (all the microorganisms that are found on or in the human oral cavity) will help lead to better dental treatments for people with diabetes, and anyone with periodontitis.
In the study of mice with high blood sugars, they found that the oral microbiome of the diabetic mice shifted, forming a less diverse and more disease-causing community of bacteria. The diabetic mice developed periodontitis, a loss of bone supporting teeth.
To then test whether these microbial changes were responsible for the disease, they transferred the bacteria they found in the diabetic mice to normal, germfree mice.
They found that the transferred bacteria of the diabetic animal created more inflammation and more bone loss in the normal mouse.
The normal mice who received microbes from the diabetic mice showed significantly more bone loss, 42% more in fact, than mice who had received a microbial transfer from normal mice. The findings suggest that if you can control inflammation, you may reduce the susceptibility of diabetics to periodontal disease.
Another takeaway from the study is the importance of dedicated and rigorous oral hygiene and regular professional care for diabetic patients.
“It’s very important that patients with diabetes and periodontal disease keep both their physicians and periodontists informed of changes in either condition,” says Terrence J. Griffin, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. “People with diabetes should consider a regular oral hygiene routine, which includes brushing twice a day, flossing regularly, and checking in with a periodontist at least once a year or if they notice changes in their gums or teeth.”*
If you or someone you love has diabetes, call to schedule a consultation with Dr. White or Dr. Blansett today.