Treating gum disease could help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood glucose levels and may reduce their risk of diabetes-related complications, a study funded by Diabetes UK has found

New research suggests that intensively treating gum disease can help some people with type 2 diabetes by lowering their blood glucose level and reducing chronic inflammation.

Research trial

Over 250 patients with poorly-controlled diabetes and active periodontitis took part in the research trial funded by Diabetes UK and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.

Researchers at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute recruited 264 people with type 2 diabetes, all with moderate to severe periodontitis. Half of the participants received intensive treatment for their gum disease, which involved deep cleaning their gums and minor gum surgery. The other half received standard care, involving regular cleaning and polishing of their teeth. The treatments were provided alongside any type 2 diabetes medications being taken.

After 12 months, participants receiving the intensive treatment had reduced their blood glucose levels (HbA1c) by on average 0.6% more than the standard care group. This suggests that intensive gum disease treatment could help some people with type 2 diabetes to improve their blood glucose levels.

They also showed reduced chronic inflammation – which could lower their risk of serious diabetes-related complications, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

The researchers are closely working with NHS authorities to increase awareness of the link between gum disease and diabetes amongst diabetes professionals, suggesting the inclusion of dental and gum assessments for people with diabetes as standard practice.

Improving health and quality of life

Chief Dental Officer, England,  Sara Hurley commented: ‘This new research helpfully builds on what we already know about the importance of patients with diabetes receiving vital gum assessments and it allows us to work closer with the wider NHS to improve the overall health and quality of everyday life for these patients.’

The team now plan a larger study at the national level to test the possible benefit of treating gum disease in patients who are at risk of heart-attacks or strokes.

The full research paper can be read here.