How a common gum infection and a vitamin deficiency adds up to diabetes

There’s a complex relationship between periodontitis (gum disease) and type 2 diabetes…

Periodontitis increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes increases your risk of developing periodontitis.

In fact, people with diabetes are three times more likely to develop periodontitis. And the higher their blood sugar is, the worse their gum disease tends to be.

Even scarier, people with diabetes and periodontitis have a far worse prognosis than people with one disease or the other…

For example, people with diabetes and periodontitis are two to three times more likely to develop life-threatening kidney disease. They’re also three times more likely to develop cardiorenal mortality, a combination of heart disease and kidney disease.

Basically, diabetes and gum disease makes for a dangerous dual diagnosis that you want nothing to do with.

So, whether you already have diabetes, or you want to prevent it, pay extra attention to your oral hygiene. But there’s something else you can do to break free from the periodontitis-diabetes cycle…

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Periodontitis + a vitamin deficiency equals diabetes danger

A new study from the University of Toronto found that there’s another power player in the diabetes-periodontitis dynamic — vitamin D.

Let me start by laying the groundwork…

First,  people with an aggressive form of periodontitis were found to be deficient in vitamin D.

Then more researchers found that people who have gum disease have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. No surprise there.

Then, they also found that people who have low vitamin D3 levels have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. No surprise there either, since previous studies show low vitamin D levels put you at risk for diabetes (along with a bunch of other diseases).

The surprising part was this…

People who had periodontitis and low levels of vitamin D3 had a diabetes risk that was “greater than the sum of the individual effects.” In other words, the two conditions worked together to fan the flames of type 2 diabetes risk even more than you’d expect based on their individual risks.

Researchers also found that more than half of Americans have both periodontitis and low D3 levels. That means there’s a heck of a lot of people at a higher risk for diabetes.

Researchers don’t know exactly why the two conditions combined make for a higher risk. But they do know that vitamin D has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that help tame dangerous microbes in the mouth and the chronic inflammation that fuels diabetes.

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Gives You the Vitamin D3 You Can’t Get From Sunshine Alone!

Using D3 to lower diabetes risk

So, there are a few things to take away from this study…

If you already have diabetes and periodontitis, check your vitamin D3 levels. If they’re low, raising them to a healthy range could help you manage your blood sugar.

And follow your dentist’s orders to treat periodontitis.

To decrease your risk (especially if you have gum disease), you should start by checking your vitamin D3 levels. That way, if you do have low D3 levels, you won’t let these two diabetes-fueling conditions fester.

Once you get your D3 levels checked, you can use these handy charts from the Vitamin D Council to figure out how much D3 you need to take daily to get out of the diabetes danger zone.

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Sources:

  1. Low levels of vitamin D3 and periodontitis may trigger the onset of Type 2 diabetes — MedicalXpress
  2. Joint effects of serum vitamin D insufficiency and periodontitis on insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009–2010BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care
  3. What’s the link between vitamin D, gum health, and diabetes? — Medical News Today
  4. Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationshipDiabetologia

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.