John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press



Gum Disease Can Raise Your Blood Sugar Level; Good News: Healthy Gums Lowers Blood Sugar

According to the American Diabetic Association, roughly 10% of the U.S. population have diabetes and about 30% (84 million) have prediabetes. 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. It is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Now for the good news.

It has been known for a long time that people with diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, have more gum disease than those without diabetes. According to the American Dental Association, scientists are finding that gum disease may raise blood sugar levels in people with and without diabetes. Conversely, the good news is that in people with type 2 diabetes, treatment of severe gum disease can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels. The benefit is about the same as you might find if you add another drug to your usual diabetes medicine.

For the 84 million Americans who have prediabetes, there is also good news. The American Dental Association has reported a study in Denmark that showed periodontitis accelerates the progression of prediabetes into diabetes. Hence treating and controlling periodontitis is a way to lower the risk onset of diabetes for these 84 million American who are pre-diabetic.

How would one know whether or not one is already pre-diabetic? When you see your physician on a regular basis for routine blood tests, screening for diabetes will reveal your status. One of the clues to whether you have additional risk factors for diabetes is a family history of diabetes. And incidentally one of the risk factors for gum disease is family history of gum disease and loss of teeth.

How does gum disease make blood sugar levels go up? Scientists think that some of the germs in infected gums lead into the bloodstream after normal activities such as chewing or tooth brushing. This starts a reaction from your body’s defense system, which in turn produces some powerful molecules (biochemicals, such as cytokines) that have harmful effects all over your body. One of the things these molecules do is to raise blood sugar levels.

Since fully 40% of the population has issues with diabetes or prediabetes, and half of the population have periodontitis, it is essential that everyone visit the physician and the dentist regularly. It will save your life and your teeth. Healthy teeth mean a healthy life. A healthy life means healthy teeth.


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