Diabetes Control Linked to Dental Cavities in Type 2

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Diabetes Control Linked to Dental Cavities in Type 2

Better blood glucose control was linked to better saliva flow and a lower risk of developing dental cavities in people with type 2 diabetes, according to new research published in the Journal of Dentistry.

The researchers had two aims in this study — to compare saliva flow and the risk of developing dental cavities in people with type 2 diabetes and without diabetes, and to look at the impact of blood glucose control on these outcomes within the group of people with type 2. They recruited 23 adults with type 2 diabetes and 18 without diabetes, and participants with type 2 were further divided into two groups — those with an A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) of 7% or below (“well controlled” diabetes), and those with an A1C level above 7% (“poorly controlled” diabetes). Each participant received a dental exam that included an assessment of the number of natural teeth; an assessment of decayed, filled or missing teeth or surfaces in the mouth; saliva flow; saliva pH (how acidic or alkaline it is); and the “subjective feeling of dry mouth.”

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Glucose control link to dental health

The researchers found that compared with the poorly controlled diabetes group, the well-controlled group had significantly better outcomes in the number of natural teeth, saliva flow and how many teeth or surfaces were decayed, filled or missing. They also found that a subjectively dry mouth was more common in people with a longer duration or diabetes, independent of their latest A1C level. What’s more, there was a direct correlation between A1C level and the composite index for decayed, filled or missing teeth or surfaces, with a steadily increasing risk for dental cavities based on a higher A1C level.

The researchers concluded that both blood glucose control and diabetes duration are important factors when it comes to the risk of tooth decay and dry mouth in people with type 2 diabetes. Based on this risk, they wrote, “Awareness and co-operation of diabetologists and dentists are needed to detect oral lesions in patients with diabetes and be treated timely and effectively.”

Limitations of this study include the small number of participants, and the fact that participants weren’t followed over time to see how developing diabetes — or having better or worse blood glucose control over time — affected the risk of developing dental cavities. And it’s possible that the relationship between blood glucose control and oral health runs in both directions in many people with diabetes, with tooth decay and oral infections potentially causing a rise in blood glucose levels. More research is needed to get a more complete picture of how blood glucose levels and the risk for dental cavities, or other dental problems, are related over time.

Want to learn more about diabetes and oral health? Read “Practice Good Oral Health for Diabetes” and “Diabetes and Dental Care,” then try your hand at our oral health quiz.

Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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