The connection between teeth and diabetes: what you need to know

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Why Teeth Matter in Diabetes Management

If you or someone you know has type 2 diabetes, here’s something you may not have considered: the health of your teeth could be affecting your blood sugar levels.

According to a new study by Mehmet A. Eskan from the University at Buffalo, how well a patient can chew food might be linked to their blood glucose levels.

This research adds a new layer to our understanding of diabetes management.

The Study: Chewing Function and Blood Sugar

The study examined 94 patients with type 2 diabetes at a clinic in Istanbul, Turkey. Researchers split the patients into two groups. The first group had healthy teeth that allowed them to chew food properly.

The second group struggled to chew because they were missing some or all of their teeth. What they found was striking: those who could chew well had better-controlled blood sugar levels than those who couldn’t.

Why Chewing Is Important

When you chew food, you kickstart the process of digestion. Saliva begins to break down the food, preparing it for the next stages in your stomach and intestines.

Proper chewing helps you get the most nutrients out of what you’re eating. And some of these nutrients, like fiber, are known to help lower blood sugar levels.

Besides nutrient absorption, chewing might have another benefit for diabetes patients.

It seems that the act of chewing might trigger your body to release more insulin, which is the hormone that helps control blood sugar.

Chewing also sends signals to your brain that make you feel full, which could help you eat less and manage your weight—a key part of diabetes care.

Real-Life Impact: One Patient’s Story

To put this into perspective, let’s talk about an actual patient from another study co-led by Eskan. This person could hardly chew due to missing teeth and had a high blood glucose level of 9.1.

Their diet consisted mainly of baby food consumed from a bottle. After getting a dental treatment involving implants, the patient’s blood sugar dropped significantly. In 18 months, it went down to 6.2, a remarkable improvement.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Oral Health

Blood sugar management is crucial for people with diabetes because poor control can lead to other health issues.

Even a slight increase in blood sugar levels can raise the risk of heart problems, kidney disease, and slow wound healing.

That’s why it’s crucial for healthcare providers treating people with diabetes to consider their patients’ dental health as part of the overall treatment plan.

Conclusion: Taking a Holistic Approach to Diabetes Care

If you have type 2 diabetes, keeping an eye on your oral health might be more important than you think.

The next time you visit your healthcare provider, consider talking about your dental health and how it might be linked to your diabetes management.

As Eskan puts it, there’s a strong link between the ability to chew and blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

So, check your teeth and think about how well you can chew your food. It might not just improve your mealtimes but also help manage your diabetes better.

While more research is needed, these findings give us another tool to better manage and understand diabetes.

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