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As if enjoying a healthy, great-looking smile wasn’t reason enough to regularly visit our team at Northfield Family Dental, a new study now provides even more encouragement – avoiding diabetes.
Researchers have found that patients who regularly brush their teeth three times a day significantly reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Researchers also discovered that patients who have developed dental disease or who have lost a significant number of permanent teeth have a higher risk for developing diabetes.
“Our study suggests that improved oral hygiene may be associated with a decreased risk of new-onset diabetes,” wrote researchers from South Korea’s Ewha Woman’s University Mokdong Hospital.
While researchers have yet to determine the exact mechanism that links poor oral health with an increased risk for diabetes, there are a few possible ways the team has identified that may allow poor oral health to contribute to the development of the disease.
The Mouth/Body Connection
As we’ve mentioned previously on our Northfield Family Dental blog, a connection exists between our oral and overall health.
What links these seemingly disparate parts of the body? Inflammation, of course.
Inflammation acts as the catalyst behind systemic disease in the body. Poor oral hygiene causes the inflammation of gum tissue, leading to development of gum disease.
Researchers suspect that inflamed gums allow harmful oral bacteria a place accumulate in the body. That bacteria may then be able to move into the body’s circulatory system and begin to travel throughout the body.
Just like in the mouth, oral bacteria cause inflammation to develop wherever it may travel in the body. That bacteria may then trigger an immune system response, which could then impair the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels.
Unfortunately, proving this type of cause-and-effect relationship between oral health and diabetes remains difficult due to the fact that many factors involved in poor oral health are also linked to type 2 diabetes.
While researchers may not have yet found evidence that poor oral health causes diabetes, they’ve firmly established that diabetes leads to poor gum and tooth health.
Diabetes Impact on Oral Health
The higher blood sugar levels that occur in patients with uncontrolled diabetes can lead to the development of cavities and poor oral health. Many of the same dietary factors – such as eating highly processed carbs – are linked with both diabetes and poor oral health – which makes it difficult to know which disease develops first.
In the study, researchers examined data collected on nearly 190,000 South Koreans with an average age of 53. The information was collected over a three-year period, during which time one in six participates developed gum disease.
The average follow-up period for the study was 10 years. During that 10-year window, roughly 16 percent of participants developed diabetes.
The research team used computer modeling to adjust for known risk factors for diabetes – including age, blood pressure, smoking status, and physical activity.
After adjusting for these known risk factors, researchers found that gum disease was linked to a 9 percent increase in diabetes risk. People who were missing 15 or more teeth had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes.
Conversely, good oral health was linked with a lower risk of diabetes. Participants who brushed their teeth three or more times a day had an 8 percent lower risk for developing diabetes.
The impact of practicing quality oral hygiene seemed to reduce diabetes risk more for younger people than those in older age groups. The data also seemed to suggest that women could lower their risk more so than men by practicing quality oral hygiene, but researchers were unclear as to why.