Chronic periodontal disease could lead to diabetes

April 19, 2001

BETHESDA, Md. - Chronic periodontal disease may contribute to diabetes, according to a review of recent research presented today. While it has been established that people with diabetes are more prone to developing periodontal disease, new research is suggesting that periodontal disease may, in turn, be a risk factor for diabetes.

The research review was presented at an American Academy of Periodontology (AAP)/National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) symposium on periodontal systemic connections in Bethesda, Md. Periodontal disease can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream and activate immune cells. These activated cells produce inflammatory biological signals (cytokines) that have a destructive effect throughout the entire body. "In the pancreas, the cells responsible for insulin production can be damaged or destroyed by the chronic high levels of cytokines. Once this happens, it may induce Type 2 diabetes, even in otherwise healthy individuals with no other risk factors for diabetes," explained presenter Anthony Iacopino, D.M.D., Ph.D. in the Division of Prosthodontics at Marquette University's School of Dentistry in Milwaukee, Wis.

According to Iacopino, hyperlipidemia or high serum cholesterol, not impaired glucose tolerance, seems to be a significant risk factor for periodontal disease in diabetics. "Therefore, lipid-lowering therapies, such as low-fat diets, lipid lowering drugs and exercise, are vitally important for diabetics who want to improve their quality of life, as well as their oral health," he said. "The same approaches may also prove beneficial in non-diabetic patients with high cholesterol."

The next step to determine for sure whether or not periodontal disease can cause diabetes is to perform clinical studies and intervention trials, which answer the question, when periodontal disease is treated, does the risk for diabetes decrease? "Until we have results from intervention studies to better understand the role periodontal disease may play in diabetes, as well as heart disease, preterm births and respiratory disease, the best advice is for people to take excellent care of their oral health to help ensure they keep their teeth as well as maintain overall health," said Michael McGuire, D.D.S., president of the AAP.
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A referral to a periodontist or a free brochure titled Diabetes & Gum Disease is available by calling 1-800-FLOSS-EM, or visit the AAP's Web site at www.perio.org.

The American Academy of Periodontology is a 7,500-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

American Academy of Periodontology

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