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Treating gum disease may help manage Type 2 diabetes


A study funded by us has found that treating gum disease could help people with Type 2 diabetes manage their blood glucose levels, and may reduce their risk of diabetes-related complications.

Gum disease (periodontitis) affects somewhere between 50 to 90% of the population and people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing it. It sets in when levels of bacteria inside the mouth are out of balance. Gum disease causes inflammation inside the body, and this has been linked to insulin resistance – a key feature of Type 2 diabetes.

Looking after oral health 

Researchers wanted to know if treating gum disease could help improve blood glucose control in people with Type 2 diabetes, by reducing inflammation. 

A team at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute recruited 264 people with Type 2 diabetes who had gum disease. Half of them received an intensive treatment, which involved deep cleaning their gums and minor gum surgery. The other half received standard care, involving regular cleaning and polishing of their teeth. Both groups carried on taking any Type 2 diabetes medications. 

After 12 months, participants receiving the intensive treatment had reduced their blood glucose levels (HbA1c) by on average 0.6% more than the standard care group. This suggests that intensive gum disease treatment could help some people with Type 2 diabetes to improve their blood glucose levels.

Combatting complications 

The researchers also found that intensive gum disease treatment was linked to improvements in kidney and blood vessel function. While more work is needed to explore this connection, this suggests that looking after oral health may reduce the risk of other diabetes-related complications in people with Type 2 diabetes. 

Professor Francesco D’Aiuto, lead researcher of the study, said:

“Our findings suggest preventing and treating gum disease could potentially be a new and important way to help people with Type 2 diabetes manage their condition, and reduce their risk of its serious complications.

“The improvement in blood glucose control we observed, in people who received intensive treatment, is similar to the effect that’s seen when people with Type 2 diabetes are prescribed a second blood glucose lowering drug. 

“We now need to determine if the improvements we found can be maintained in the longer-term and if they apply to everyone with Type 2 diabetes.”

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, our Director of Research, said:

“Currently people with Type 2 diabetes aren’t given oral health advice or treatment as part of their routine diabetes care.

“While more work is needed to fully understand how good oral health could help with blood glucose management, this research gives us important insights into the potential benefits of looking after your oral health if you have Type 2 diabetes.”

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