Dental health—and the number of teeth a person is missing–could be linked to an increased risk of diabetes, according to a new study.
"We asked the question of when people have trouble controlling their blood sugars, do they also have poor dental health, and from what we saw it looks like that might be the case," lead author Raynald Samoa, MD, tells Drug Topics.
The researchers used data from the 2009-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to study the records of 9,670 adults age 20 or older. As part of their research, they looked at the number of teeth a person was missing, body mass index, data on glucose tolerance states, hemoglobin A1c levels, and established cases of diabetes, according to a statement about the findings.
Researchers found a progressive increase between the number of missing teeth and declining glucose tolerance. After dividing the patients into three categories, researchers reported a progressive increase of 45.57% in those with normal glucose tolerance, 67.61% in those with abnormal glucose tolerance, and 82.87% in the group with diabetes mellitus.
The differences in average number of missing teeth among the groups were also found to be significant. The average number missed was 2.26 in the normal glucose group, 4.41 in the abnormal group, and 6.80 in those with diabetes.
"Because we were doing a cross-sectional study from retrieved data you could not really say one thing caused another thing, but you could show a potential relationship," Samoa says. He is assistant professor in the Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism at City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA. But based on these findings, it appears there was a correlation between how well someone controlled their blood sugar and their dental health.
This finding has important implications, Samoa says, because it could provide insight to who may be at the greatest risk for developing diabetes several decades before prediabetes could be determined. This early notification could lead to earlier prevention strategies.
"You go to your dentist way more than you go to your doctor at that age and it's not invasive," he says, discussing the assessing missing teeth.
According to Samoa, current diabetes prevalence estimates for diabetes in the United States are about 10% of the population, but by 2050, he says prevalence is expected to grow to one in every three Americans.
"The sooner we can identify and do something about it, I think that's the way we would head off this epidemic," Samoa says.