Tooth loss is around twice more likely among diabetes patients, a recent study published on Thursday, December 3, in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease has revealed.
Experts led by Bei Wu, director of International Research at the Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) analyzed medical data which had been collected during the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted from 1971 until 2012.
Tooth loss among more than 37,000 study participants was reviewed, in order to identify potential trends.
It was determined that while this stomatological issue has become more infrequent in recent years, it is twice as prevalent among people who suffer from diabetes than among the rest of the population, and its incidence is even higher among black patients.
Moreover, having a minimum of 21 teeth is 34% more probable among those who have normal blood glucose levels, than among their counterparts whose blood sugar concentration is above limits.
There is in fact a reciprocal causation between the two conditions, since diabetics who develop a dental abscess or an aphthous ulcer also experience an increase in blood sugar levels, by as much as 30 to 40 units, which can easily be curbed however once dental care is provided.
Diabetes had previously been linked with several other health problems, such as vision loss, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, neuropathy and infections resulting in amputations.
Now it appears that another complication associated with this metabolic disorder has been identified, and it refers to a higher risk of developing gum disease and edentulism (a condition where teeth fall out due to trauma or illness).
As Dr. Wu explains, around half of all adult Americans suffer from gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. The former, whose manifestations include swelling, bleeding and redness of the gums, is usually preventable through adequate oral hygiene and can be easily treated, due to its mildness.
In contrast, the latter, which is three times more common among diabetics, is much more severe, causing gums to recede and become infected, as teeth become excessively loose due to diminished support, and eventually have to be extracted.
This greater incidence of gum disease may explain why tooth loss is also much more likely among those who have overly high blood sugar levels.
Another contributing factor for partial and complete edentulism which affects people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes is their elevated risk of tooth decay, because of excessive amounts of starches and sugar. These substances react with mouth bacteria, causing plaque to appear, which destroys enamel, increasing the likelihood of developing cavities.
Based on these findings, study authors believe that the American Diabetes Associations (ADA) should introduce guidelines so that diabetes patients are advised by their physicians to consult a stomatologist.
This isn’t currently a common practice, but it should become one, given that individuals who are affected by such metabolic ailments are much more predisposed to poor dental health, resulting in tooth loss.
In response, ADA representative Dr. Edmond Hewlet, who teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Dentistry has declared that the scientific paper’s results are well worth taking into account.
Hewlett also added that greater emphasis should be placed on the fact that some ethnic minorities are more at risk of experiencing such complications than others, most likely due to inadequate access to health care.
For instance, African-Americans have been proven to be more vulnerable to tooth loss, and also around 1.7 times more at risk of developing diabetes than Caucasian individuals.
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