Diabetes mellitus leads to persistently elevated blood sugar levels. Over time, high sugar levels damage the body and can lead to the multiple health problems associated with diabetes.
But why are high blood sugars so bad for you? How much sugar in the blood is too much? And what are good sugar levels, anyway?
Diabetes and Normal Blood Sugar Levels
At present, the diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes is based in an arbitrary cut-off point for a normal blood sugar level. A normal sugar level is currently considered to be less than 100 mg/dL when fasting and less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating. But in most healthy people, sugar levels are even lower.
During the day, blood glucose levels tend to be at their lowest just before meals. For most people without diabetes, blood sugar levels before meals hover around 70 to 80 mg/dL. In some, 60 is normal; in others, 90. Again, anything less than 100 mg/dL while fasting is considered normal by today's standards.
A study to be published in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library and led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and supported by colleagues at the Peninsula Dental School, the University of Ottawa and UCL Eastman Dental Institute, suggests that the treatment of serious gum (periodontal) disease in diabetics with Type 2 diabetes may lower their blood sugar levels.
The research team analysed randomised controlled trials of people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes who had also been diagnosed with periodontal disease. The team looked at 690 papers and included seven studies in the review that fulfilled pre-specified criteria for inclusion.
Their findings suggest that the treatment of periodontal disease can reduce blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes, although there was not enough available evidence to support the same benefit for those with Type 1 diabetes.
Current belief is that, when bacteria infect the mouth and cause inflammation, the resulting chemical changes reduce the effectiveness of insulin produced in the body, thus making it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar.
The findings are key because many patients and health care professionals do not necessarily make the association between the treatment of gum disease and the control of blood sugar levels. The study suggests that the effective treatment of gum disease could have a positive impact on diabetic patients, especially those with Type 2 diabetes, because it good blood sugar control contributes to lowering the risk of serious complications linked to the condition, such as eye problems and heart disease.
Terry Simpson, lead author at the Edinburgh Dental Institute, said: "It would be wise to advise patients of the relationship between treating periodontal disease and the possibility of lowering their blood sugar levels. Additionally, an oral health assessment should be recommended as part of their routine diabetes management."