Diabetes rates continue to increase across the country. In Alaska the current rate of diabetes among adults is 7.6%. Although this is one of the lowest in the country, it is still significantly higher than in the past. The rising rate means that by 2030, there will be 60% more cases of diabetes in Alaska than in 2010. To better face this increase in cases of diabetes, we need to find good ways to identify them early and start treatment to protect people’s health.
Fortunately, there’s one clear sign that can be used to screen for diabetes early: gum disease. And that’s one reason why making your regular dental checkups is a great way to protect your overall health.
Gum Disease as a Screening Tool for Diabetes
We know that gum disease is linked to diabetes, but does that mean that gum disease is a good tool for diabetes screening? Researchers in Amsterdam tested 313 dental patients for diabetes using the validated HbA1c test. 126 patients had mild/moderate gum disease, 78 patients had severe gum disease, and 109 had no gum disease.
They found that patients with gum disease had significantly higher levels of HbA1c than those without gum disease. And subjects with gum disease were much more likely to be diabetic (according to guidelines from the American Diabetes Association). A full 23% of people with severe gum disease had HbA1c levels signifying diabetes. A further 47% were classed as having prediabetes. With mild or moderate gum disease, 14% had diabetes and 46% had prediabetes. That’s compared to 10% with diabetes and 37% with prediabetes for people without gum disease. That means that you’re more than twice as likely to have diabetes if you have severe gum disease. And you’re about 40% more likely to have diabetes even if you have mild or moderate gum disease. In other words, it seems like gum disease does serve as a good warning sign that you might want to get screened for diabetes.
The Complex Relationship between Gum Disease and Diabetes
Gum disease and diabetes have a complex relationship in which each worsens the the other. Elevated blood sugar levels can increase the disease bacteria that grow in your mouth, increasing your risk of gum disease. But if you have gum disease, it can increase your systemic inflammation and make it harder for you to regulate your blood sugar levels, so the impact of diabetes is worse.
And since gum disease carries with it increased risk of cardiovascular effects, it dramatically increases your risk of serious complications.
Your Dentist Can Help
Visiting your dentist can ensure you are seeing the warning signs of diabetes, but your dentist can also help you treat your diabetes. Treating gum disease can help you get diabetes under control. Gum disease treatment can actually lower your blood sugar levels.
And it can reduce the costs of diabetes-related complications, too. It’s an important step to breaking the cycle of diabetes and getting your health back under control.