Having diabetes doubles the risk of tooth loss, according to new research.
It has long been established that diabetes increases the risk of tooth decay, but this is the first study to examine the extent of the effect.
Focusing on American adults, the study found that black people experience tooth loss twice as much as white and Mexican Americans. According to the researchers, this is more likely to be caused by limited access to dental care than anything biological. Historically, dental care has not been readily available for black Americans.
How was the study conducted?
The study was conducted by assessing the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for trends in tooth loss between the years of 1971 and 2012. Generally, tooth loss has declined over the years, but it has consistently been more common in people with diabetes.
“Our study findings highlight the need to improve dental self-care and knowledge of diabetes risk among people with diabetes, especially among African Americans who experience more tooth loss,” the researchers wrote.
The findings are published in Preventing Chronic Disease.
Diabetes and tooth loss
Over time, prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels can cause significant damage to the teeth and gums. This is because bacteria feeds on glucose, so it will thrive wherever glucose is prevalent. The generally higher levels of glucose in people with diabetes makes them more susceptible to a range of bacterial infections, including tooth decay.
To prevent tooth decay, people with diabetes should clean their teeth twice a day, floss regularly, and regularly visit the dentist. Like most complications of diabetes, maintaining careful blood glucose levels and following a healthy diet can minimise the risk of tooth decay.

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