According to Dr. Peter Alldritt, chair of the Oral Health Committee, there’s increasing evidence that shows a two-way relationship between diabetes and gum disease. He explained that poor controlled diabetes increases gum disease’s severity. At the same time, worsening gum disease makes it harder to control blood sugar levels, because it prevents patients from being able to eat a healthy diet, which means that they can’t get the right amount and type of nutrients. Basically, the worse one gets, the worse the other will get.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine supports Dr. Alldritt’s claims. It found that those who were treated for gum disease had fewer hospitalizations and lower healthcare costs for other conditions in comparison to those whose gum disease wasn’t treated.
Both Dr. Alldritt and Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, who led the University of Pennsylvania study, agree that people need to be checked for gum disease.
“Absolutely people should be checked – that’s why we published this paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine,” said Dr. Jeffcoat. “We didn’t publish in a dental journal because we wanted physicians to see it so they could give good advice to their patients.”
“On a positive note, people with well-controlled blood sugar levels have the same risk of gum disease as people without diabetes,” said Dr. Alldritt.
According to the latest data from the American Diabetes Association, 79 million Americans have prediabetes. Not only that, but 26 million American adults and children — 10% of the U.S. population — already have diabetes, with another 1.9 million getting it every year. As a result, diabetes costs the U.S. $245 million each year.
Although there isn’t enough data for these claims to be concrete, they still provide hope. According to Dr. Alldritt, “Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in up to 58% of cases through early detection and lifestyle modification.”
Best of all, perhaps, is that according to Dr. Jeffcoat, it’s easy to check for gum disease, saying, “Checking someone for periodontal disease can take as little as three to five minutes.”
This means that patients may be able to prevent themselves from getting diabetes in just three minutes.