Research has found that tooth loss is a complication of diabetes. Diabetes, especially if unmanaged, can result in many health complications, such as nerve damage and even vision loss. The new findings suggest that diabetics are twice as likely to experience tooth loss in comparison to those without diabetes. Lead researcher, Dr. Bei Wu, said, “We have more evidence that [poor] oral health is related to diabetes.”
Gum disease is higher among diabetics and a consequence of gum disease is tooth loss.
Although the link isn’t quite clear between diabetes and tooth loss, Dr. Wu suggests that diabetes raises the odds of poor dental health, and poor dental health is worsened in diabetics.
Although doctors should be recommending that their diabetic patients to see a dentist, Dr. Wu states that many are not doing so.
Vision loss is a serious complication of diabetes, so doctors are more inclined to send their diabetic patients to an eye doctor as opposed to a dentist. Foot exams are also highly recommended as nerve damage can occur due to poor circulation. Dr. Wu explained, “Foot care and eye care are on the top of their agenda, but dental care is not. Diabetics need to have regular dental care.”
Dr. Edmond Hewlett, a spokesman for the American Dental Association, commented, “This study sheds light on two important and timely health issues: the connection between dental health and overall health; and health disparities – the degree to which diseases can affect some racial/ethnic groups more severely than others.”
To come to their findings, Dr. Wu and the research team collected data from 37,000 individuals. What they found was that although tooth loss declined over the 40 year-span study, it was more common among those with diabetes. Further analysis revealed that diabetics were 34 percent less likely to have at least 21 teeth compared to those without diabetes.
The authors wrote, “Research has demonstrated that . . . they do not brush and floss as often as people without diabetes. Our study findings highlight the need to improve dental self-care and knowledge of diabetes risks among people with diabetes, especially among non-Hispanic blacks, who had more tooth loss and lost teeth at a higher rate.”
The findings are published in the December issue of Preventing Chronic Disease.