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Diabetes is a disease that causes altered levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes develops from either a deficiency in insulin production (a hormone that is the key component in the body’s ability to use blood sugars) or the body’s inability to use insulin correctly. According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes; however, more than half have not been diagnosed with this disease. If you are diabetic, you are at higher risk for developing infections, including periodontal diseases. These infections can impair the ability to process and/or utilize insulin, which may cause your diabetes to be more difficult to control and your infection to be more severe than a non-diabetic.
Diabetes has long been known to increase the risk of severe periodontal disease. A study released today in the November issue of the Journal of Periodontology found that poorly controlled type 2 diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease than well-controlled diabetics are. In addition, the study further explains why diabetics are more susceptible to severe periodontal disease. (Click here to view the study abstract)
The study concluded that poorly controlled diabetics respond differently to bacterial plaque at the gum line than well-controlled diabetics and non-diabetics, possibly due to elevated serum triglycerides. Poorly controlled diabetics have more harmful proteins (cytokines) in their gingival tissue, causing destructive inflammation of the gums. In turn, beneficial proteins (growth factors) are reduced, interfering with the healing response to infection.
“Increased serum triglyceride levels in uncontrolled diabetics seem to be related to greater attachment loss and probing depths, which are measures of periodontal disease,” said Christopher Cutler, D.D.S., Ph.D., the study’s lead researcher. “Diabetic patients should certainly be aware of their blood sugar levels, but it’s also important they have their serum triglycerides and cholesterol levels checked by their physician on a regular basis. Reducing cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels, preferably through diet and exercise, may be the most important changes that diabetics can make to improve their quality of life, as well as their oral health.” The American Academy of Periodontology is encouraging diabetics to get a periodontal evaluation as recent research also has found that having periodontal disease makes diabetes more difficult to control. “We have a classic vicious cycle going on,” said Cutler.
“Controlling your periodontal disease may help you control your diabetes,” added Jack Caton, D.D.S., M.S., President of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).