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dental health | May 30, 2024 | 3 min read

Unlocking a Diabetes Defense: The Surprising Role of Oral Hygiene

Essential Takeaways

  • Poor oral health can worsen diabetes and vice versa. Brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits are crucial for people with diabetes to manage their overall health.

Diabetes is a complex condition that impacts the whole body: the kidneys, eyes, heart, and other vital organs are all at risk in people with diabetes. But the emerging connection between diabetes and the gums exposes how caring for your oral health can help prevent or reduce the severity of diabetes. In this post, we dig into the science to explore the connection between diabetes and gum disease.

Diabetes and oral health: Study results

It’s been long-accepted that diabetes causes issues in the mouth; the build-up of glucose in saliva can cause bacterial growth leading to a number of problems like cavities and decay. But it turns out this relationship is a two-way street; oral health issues are now thought to potentially cause or contribute to diabetes as well.

Before we dig into the reason for the connection, consider these shocking statistics that point to the link between oral health and diabetes.

  • Adults with diabetes who are 20 years or older are 40% more likely to have untreated cavities than adults without diabetes.
  • Severe tooth loss is 50% higher in people with diabetes.
  • People with diabetes are 3x more likely to get periodontitis.

Let’s dig into the complex linkage between diabetes and oral health.

Inflammation increases blood glucose

Periodontal disease, a serious gum infection, is incredibly common: 47.2% of Americans 30 and older have some form of gum disease. While unfortunately common, it’s also harmful to the whole body.

Gum disease causes inflammation in the mouth; inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to infection and helps heal injuries and ailments. However, inflammation, especially persistent or chronic inflammation, has other consequences — including its ability to increase blood glucose. Increased blood glucose over long periods of time — hyperglycemia — can cause permanent damage to major organs and could even lead to life-threatening dehydration. It’s also a hallmark of diabetes.

Further, Type 1 Diabetes is now considered to be an immunological response, not a metabolic disorder. Preliminary trials have shown anti-inflammatory medications to be promising in treating Type 1 Diabetes, which further corroborates the connection between inflammation and this disease.

Chronic inflammation may increase insulin resistance

One study found that inflammatory stress was correlated with insulin resistance and metabolic disease. Chronic inflammation can also damage insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, which can cause even more inflammation —worsening the issues discussed above.

Diabetes can worsen oral health issues

One of the many side effects of diabetes is dry mouth, which exacerbates oral health conditions. Saliva is essential for oral health; it neutralizes harmful acids, protects the teeth from decay, wards off gum disease, and protects the enamel. It also helps heal wounds in the mouth.

When saliva is in short supply, the teeth and gums are at higher risk of decay and infection. This side effect of diabetes is one of the culprits behind the reason why people with diabetes more commonly have oral health issues than people without diabetes.

Oral health is whole-body health

Dentists, endocrinologists, and the medical community at large are continuing to uncover the complex links between oral health and diabetes, but what’s not in question is that caring for your mouth supports your whole-body wellness. Proper brushing and flossing, along with regular dental appointments, can be powerful preventative measures that ward off some of the deadliest diseases.

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Meet the Author

Kenny Brown

We founded Feno to revolutionize dental care, understanding the vital connection between oral and overall health. Our tech driven products offer more than superb cleaning—they give you routine & insightful health monitoring to help improve your overall health.

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