A Hidden Risk of Diabetes

Tooth loss almost twice as common in diabetes patients as in patients without the disease


When you've got diabetes, you have to think about your blood sugar. But you may also need to take a look at your teeth.

That's because patients with diabetes are more likely to lose teeth than patients without the disease, a new study found.

In fact, compared to patients without diabetes, diabetes patients in this study were nearly twice as likely to lose teeth, according to study author Mark N. Feinglos, MD, an endocrinologist at the Duke University Health System, and colleagues.

These researchers also found that black diabetes patients faced the highest risk of tooth loss.

In type 1 diabetes, the body produces no insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not properly process insulin. Both conditions require medical management and can lead to heart, kidney and other problems if left untreated.

In an interview with CBS News, American Dental Association Spokesperson Dr. Edmond Hewlett noted that diabetes can raise the risk of gum disease, and that compromised oral health can compromise overall health.

So should diabetes patients take special precautions for their dental health? Probably no more than what dentists tell most patients to do. Dr. Hewlett told CBS that patients should brush their teeth twice daily, floss daily and see a dentist two times per year.

"It's critically important to understand that managing your dental health is part of managing your diabetes," Dr. Hewlett said.

For their study, Dr. Feinglos and team looked at more than 37,000 patients from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1971 and 2012.

This study was published Dec. 3 in Preventing Chronic Disease. Dr. Feinglos and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.