The importance of teaching good oral hygiene habits in everyday life is pretty well known. However, did you know that practising good oral hygiene can also help you fight diabetes? The relation between oral health and diabetes has been a subject of intensive study and interest for a long time. Numerous studies have been and are still being conducted, which conclusively shows the intimate association between diabetes and oral health.

Recent research has shown that people who brush their teeth regularly three times a day have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Simultaneously, this study also shows that people who suffer from dental diseases such as dental cavities and gum diseases are at a higher risk of presenting with disorders related to blood sugar levels.

Dr. Yoonkyung Chang, a clinical assistant professor of neurology at Ewha Woman’s University Mokdong Hospital, South Korea, recently authored a study that shows a relation between oral health and new-onset diabetes. This study suggests that improved oral hygiene is associated with a lower risk of developing new-onset diabetes.

Dr. Chang further added that researchers still haven’t been able to find out the exact mechanism behind this association. However, it can be said that poor oral health and faulty oral hygiene contribute to diabetes. This can be attributed to the fact that poor oral hygiene leads to chronic inflammatory processes. Chronic inflammation due to bacterial accumulation affects the sanctity of the oral cavity and causes gum diseases. The bacteria from these infected gums can enter the bloodstream and trigger an immune system response. This generalized immune system response is what contributes to impaired blood sugar levels. However, it is still uncertain and difficult to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between dental health and diabetes. Many other factors that contribute to poor oral health have also been linked to type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Akankansha Goyal is an endocrinologist from NYU Langone Health in New York City, is also familiar with the research and their finding. However, she was not involved directly in the study. Her observations, too, have shown a link between poor dental health and diabetes. There is no specific way of saying if poor dental health causes diabetes, but diabetes can definitely lead to poor dental health. The high blood sugar levels in a patient suffering from diabetes can lead to dental cavities and gum diseases.

Moreover, dietary habits also form a base for such diseases. Consuming highly processed food substances and sugars has been strongly linked with poor oral health and diabetes. This makes it difficult to comment on which happens first, diabetes or dental diseases.

The study conducted in South Korea involved 190,000 people with an average age of 53. The data was assembled in a period of three years (2003-06). One out of every six people in the study was suffering from gum diseases during data collection. On average, the follow-up time was 10 years. During this time, about 16% of the people involved in the study developed diabetes.

The researchers used computer modelling, which controlled the data for different factors such as age, weight, blood pressure, physical activity, income, smoking, and alcohol intake.

The research showed that the presence of gum disease was linked to a 9% increase in the risk of diabetes. Moreover, people who were found to be missing 15 or more teeth showed a 21% greater risk of suffering from diabetes.

The link between good oral hygiene and lower risk for diabetes was much more substantial for younger individuals ( 51 and under). Frequent brushing and flossing seemed to be helpful against diabetes for women. The reason behind this still appears to be unclear.

Dr. Goyal suggests that people should brush twice a day and floss every day. For patients who already suffer from diabetes, it is vital to have regular dental checkups.

A healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, exercising for at least 150 minutes per week and suitable oral hygiene methods can help prevent type 2 diabetes.  Dr. Goyal also emphasizes the importance of stopping to smoke, portion control and eating small meals multiple times a day.

At Lancaster Dental – Kitchener Dentist Office, we strive to provide you with the best possible dental treatment and provide safe and quality care. If you have any questions or concerns please contact our dental office.


DISCLAIMER: The advice offered is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. It is in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation.  Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.