The condition of your teeth may be an indication of your risk for diabetes, according to a new study from California’s City of Hope National Medical Center. “The health of your teeth may be a sign of your risk for diabetes,” said lead author Raynald Samoa, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism.
“Our findings suggest that dental exams may provide a way to identify someone at risk for developing diabetes,” he said. “We found a progressive positive relationship between worsening glucose tolerance and the number of missing teeth.
“Although a causal relationship cannot be inferred from this cross-sectional study,” he continued, “it demonstrates that poor dental outcome can be observed before the onset of overt diabetes.”
The researchers reviewed the medical records of 9,670 adults 20 years of age and above. All were examined by dentists during the 2009-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They analyzed their reported body mass index (BMI) and glucose tolerance states by fasting plasma glucose, two-hour post-challenge plasma glucose, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), established diabetes, and whether the condition was treated with oral agents or insulin.
They recorded the numbers of missing teeth due to cavities as well as periodontal disease. The researchers also determined the relationship between glucose tolerance and dental condition by considering age, gender, racial and ethnic group, family history of diabetes, smoking status, alcohol consumption, education and poverty index.
They discovered that as glucose tolerance declined, the number of people with missing teeth increased — from 45.57 percent in those with normal levels, to 67.61 percent in the group with abnormal glucose tolerance. In the group diagnosed with diabetes, the percentage rose to 82.87.
Dental health can also indicate the risk of physical and mental disability, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study of more than 60,000 adults aged 65 and older found that older adults who had significant tooth loss were less functional — both physically and mentally — when compared with people who lost fewer teeth.
In addition, poor dental health has been linked to heart disease. A 2016 study by the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden found that gum disease increased the risk of an initial heart attack by 28 percent.
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