Can you improve your diabetes management by seeing your dentist? A recent study looks at good oral health and how it helps us maintain healthier blood sugars!
When we begin working with new patients they are often surprised that on their “To do list” along with basal testing, carb counting and talking to their doctor about a prescription for new medications or technologies we ask them to make an appointment with their dentist if they have not been annually. For years studies have been reporting that what happens in our mouth is not limited there!
Inflammation caused by gum disease, infections and other dental concerns can increase our risk of heart attacks and other microvascular issues. This becomes even more significant for people with diabetes as we are already at higher risk for these complications. Likewise, having diabetes means that when our blood sugars are elevated, we have more glucose in our saliva. This added glucose can feed the bacteria in our mouths that cause cavities and gum disease. So getting in to see your dentist regularly should be a part of your diabetes management regimen!
All that inflammation in our mouths can also cause blood sugars to elevate and be more variable. If we have an infection, our blood sugars run higher and are more variable. Likewise whenever we have an inflammatory process blood sugars run higher.
The takeaway?: Maintaining good oral health helps us maintain healthier blood sugars!
We often feel like we do a lot of work to manage diabetes without making the progress we hope for, maintaining good dental care is a very easy step to take that can get us closer to that goal.
Pearly whites and A1C…recent study
However, a recent study takes all of this a step further. The study by UCL Eastman Dental and published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal (funded by Diabetes UK and the National Institute for Health Research) followed 264 persons with type 2 diabetes for a year who had been diagnosed with gum disease (periodontitis). Half of the patients received standard dental care such as cleanings& tooth polishing; the other half received intensive treatment for gum disease. The participants who received intensive treatment showed a 0.6% reduction in their A1C over the year! That is the reduction one would expect from having added another diabetes medication! This means that dental treatment of gum disease can have as much impact on A1C as medication, with no side effects or risks that accompany medications. (hypoglycemia, kidney function impact, nausea etc)
It remains to be seen whether the improved glucose levels were a result of the dental treatment itself, or whether the higher level of treatment made participants more mindful of their need for improved personal health practices such as diet or taking medication.
I had a mentor once told me “Never miss brushing your teeth: once you miss brushing your teeth you skip a workout, when you skip a workout you eat junk and call it a “cheat day”, when you don’t eat well you feel run down, when you feel run down you are cranky, when you’re cranky you get passed over for a promotion at work, when you get passed over for the promotion you can’t pay your rent, when you can’t pay your rent you rob a convenience store to get money, when you rob the store there’s a police chase, when you get caught and end up in prison someone asks “What you in for?” you reply “I didn’t brush my teeth”.