Did you know that the health of your mouth has direct ties to your overall health? There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that improved oral heath can lead to greater overall wellness – and vice versa. One area where these connections are especially strong is in the health of patients with diabetes. Many diabetic patients aren’t aware of the very real connections between diabetes and chronic periodontitis (CP), a severe form of gum disease, which could help in managing their symptoms.
CP and Diabetes: A Two Way-Street
CP is considered a complication of diabetes, but what isn’t often discussed is how this connection goes both ways. In our research and dental practice at the Forsyth Institute, we’re finding that people with diabetes are not only more susceptible to severe gum disease, but that gum disease also contributes to poor control of blood sugar leading to worsening of diabetes and its complications. Therefore, when treating your diabetes, pay attention to your oral health as treating both gum disease and diabetes simultaneously may help you gain better control over your blood sugar.
Increase in Inflammation
While acute inflammation serves a protective role against injury and infection, when prolonged and unresolved, it can impact other health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, kidney disease, and more. Increased inflammation can also worsen the symptoms of CP and diabetes, as both diseases are characterized by increased inflammation and a disrupted immune response.
In a study published by the American Society for Microbiology, it was demonstrated that “resolvins”, compounds naturally produced in the body from omega-3 fatty acids, have the potential to “shut off” chronic inflammation. In patients with diabetes, CP may influence the progression of diabetes through both inflammation and the diffusion of periodontal pathogens that contribute to insulin resistance, obesity and atheroma formation in arteries. Based on this, an integrative approach that addresses the systemic inflammatory responses could improve outcomes in diabetic patients and more importantly, help prevent complications of unresolved inflammation.
Gut Check: What Your Gut Knows about Your Diabetes
Our latest findings at the Forsyth Institute also suggest that the bacteria in our gut may play important roles in obesity-related insulin resistance in diabetes and impact the composition of disease-promoting bacteria in the mouth. Investigating human-bacterial interactions along the digestive tract will shed new light on critical aspects of what drives disease onset and progression and how we may intervene to prevent it. One approach is to therapeutically restore the balance between our immune system and bacteria colonizing the digestive tract though probiotics and immune modulatory drugs.
Know Your Mouth, Know Your Health
These findings suggest a new direction in the way we treat diabetes that could have a profound effect on the 415 million suffers of diabetes worldwide. There’s still a lot to learn about the connections between your overall health and oral wellness, but one thing is certain: Knowing what our mouths are saying about your overall health could lead to novel treatments for many common