Gum disease isn’t a problem just for your mouth. It raises your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, cognitive decline, mental health issues – even some cancers.
That link between poor periodontal health and other inflammatory conditions inevitably raises the question: If you treat the gum disease, does your systemic health improve, as well?
Scientific evidence suggests so, at least for some conditions. In fact, about a year ago we looked at a review which found that periodontal therapy may well help diabetic patients with glycemic control.
Last month, this finding was confirmed by an even larger review.
Working with Cochrane Oral Health, researchers searched six databases for relevant studies, narrowing down to 35 in which patients with both diabetes and periodontitis – severe gum disease – were randomly assigned to either a test group or a control group.
Those in the control groups received either no treatment or “usual care” (regular dental cleanings, along with hygiene instruction and support). Those in the test groups underwent scaling and root planing – deep cleanings – as well as hygiene instruction or other periodontal treatment. Most participants had type 2 diabetes and had their health outcomes followed for up to 12 months.
Analyzing these studies, the research team found that the vast majority – 30 in all – showed reduced blood sugar levels, measured by A1c, in test group participants. In the first few months, the average drop was 0.43 percentage points (for example, from 7.43 to 7). After 6 months, the average drop was 0.3 points; after one year, 0.5.
While the authors noted that while “most of the studies were conducted in a way that meant they were at a high risk of bias or did not provide enough information for us to make a judgment,” the fact that over 80% of the studies they looked at reach similar conclusions led them to conclude that they were “reliable and future research is not likely to change them.”
In summary, currently there is moderate‐certainty evidence to support gum disease treatment…for controlling blood sugar levels in people with periodontitis (gum disease) and diabetes up to 12 months after the start of the periodontal treatment.
With this, the picture is clearer than ever that regular dental care really should be considered an important part of diabetes treatment, right along with appropriate lifestyle changes such as better nutrition, sufficient sleep and exercise, stress reduction, and more. Mouth and body alike stand to benefit.