Gum Disease Linked to Insulin Issues

Gingivitis associated with insulin resistance in people without diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As our dental health has improved, so too has our quality of life. This may be no coincidence; your dental health has an impact on your overall health.

Researchers found that gingivitis (gum disease) was associated with insulin resistance, a hallmark of diabetes.

Gingivitis is a type of gum disease in which the tissues that support the teeth, including the gums, become inflamed and infected.

The condition occurs when plaque (a sticky substance made of bacteria, mucus, and food debris) builds up on your teeth.

"Brush and floss everyday!"

According to Ryan T. Demmer, PhD, of Columbia University, and colleagues, exposure to certain bacteria may play a role in the development of diabetes.

With this relationship in mind, Dr. Demmer and his fellow researchers set out to see if gingivitis was linked to insulin resistance among people without diabetes.

Insulin is a natural hormone that manages blood sugar levels. When a person becomes insulin resistant, the body no longer responds to insulin, leading to higher levels of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar increases the risk of diabetes and other complications.

To measure insulin resistance in their study, the researchers used a mathematical model called HOMA-IR (homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance).

They found that HOMA-IR increased by 1.04 for every 1 mm increase in periodontal probing depth (a measure of pocket depth around a tooth that indicates the health of the tissues that support the teeth).

In other words, insulin resistance increased as gum disease worsened.

Among participants with a higher white blood cell count (more than 7.9 × 109), a higher periodontal probing depth was associated with an HOMA-IR of 3.30 or more.

A high white blood cell count is often a sign of inflammation.

"Periodontal infection was associated with insulin resistance in a nationally representative U.S. sample of diabetes-free results," the authors concluded.

The study involved 3,616 people from the Continuous National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2004) who received a periodontal examination and fasting blood draw. A little more than half of participants were women, 28 percent were Hispanic, 52 percent were Caucasian, 17 percent were African American and 3 percent were of another ethnicity.

The research was published July 26 in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

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Review Date: 
August 1, 2012
Last Updated:
April 7, 2014