It has been long believed that having a “sweet tooth” and eating too much sugar is a leading cause for type-2 diabetes. But we now understand that diabetes is a complicated disease, caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors which doctors and scientists are still teasing out after decades of constant research. But perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve read recently about diabetes is its strong connection to something no one* likes to talk about: periodontal disease. (*Except your dentist, of course)

According to the American Diabetes Association, gum disease, or periodontitis, is a leading indicator of diabetes. And while it may be obvious that having diabetes increases the risk of developing serious gum disease since diabetics are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, I think the larger question is whether periodontitis might sometimes lead to diabetes! Research over the last 10 years have produced a number of surprising results that maybe there IS a two-way path between diabetes and periodontitis. And earlier this year, scientists in India looked into whether treating the periodontitis could actually have a cumulative effect on diabetic control as well.

Vidya Dodwad, Sakshi Ahuji and Bhavna Jha Kukreja presented in the Contemporary Clinical Dentistry their work on assessing various indicators in diabetic patients treated for periodontitis with and without the use of Tetracycline Hydrochloride (Gold Biotechnology, T-101). Their results may surprise you! Using tetracycline fibers as a local application to the test group’s gums (instead of systemically delivered antibiotics), they compared the test group to a control of typical SRP (scaling and root planning) treatment. While it’s not surprising that they saw significant improvements in gum health and plaque scores of the test subjects; tetracycline has been a popular antibiotic since the 1950’s due to its broad spectrum antimicrobial activity. What was surprising was that HbA1c and CRP levels in the tetracycline group were significantly decreased vs. the control group over a 3 month period. Not only that, but so was their overall cholesterol, their HDL, LDL and triglycerides!

So what does proper dental care and more frequent brushing mean for your health? Surprisingly, more than you might realize. There is yet more work to do to confirm these results in longer term studies. But meanwhile, the next time you reach for that soda or candy, think about their effect on your teeth and their connection to your long-term health. Maybe a nice apple really CAN keep the doctor away!

Dodwad, Vidya, Sakshi Ahuja, and Bhavna Jha Kukreja. "Effect of locally delivered tetracycline hydrochloride as an adjunct to scaling and root planing on Hba1c, C-reactive protein, and lipid profile in type 2 diabetes: A clinico-biochemical study." Contemporary Clinical Dentistry 3.2 (2012): 150.

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