At our Springfield dental care practice, our team at McKenzie River Dental strives to stress to patients the important role their oral health plays in determining their overall health. In recent years, a growing amount of research has found compelling links between an individual’s oral and overall health. Studies have found that individuals suffering from gum disease and tooth decay have a significantly higher risk of developing a range of chronic health issues that include cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Metabolic disease such as type 2 diabetes can cause changes in oral bacteria that in turn can increase our risk of oral health problems, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
In the study, researchers measured glucose concentration bacterial counts, and the presence of 42 bacterial species in saliva samples taken from over 8,000 Kuwaiti children using DNA probe analysis.
In addition to the saliva samples, researchers collected data on the children’s level of fitness and the rates of tooth decay and gum disease. These data points were then compared between children with low glucose levels in the saliva and those with high levels of glucose.
“There are reports of major changes in the bacterial frequency and/or bacterial species counts in saliva from obese individuals compared with samples from those of healthy weight,” wrote the authors of the study from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. “[Type 2 diabetes] has been associated with changes in bacterial diversity and frequency in supragingival plaque, but an association between type 2 diabetes and changes in salivary bacterial parameter has been less clear.”
The study group examined by researchers was comprised of 61 percent girls and 39 percent of boys. A higher percentage of boys (38 percent) were obese compared to the girls (31 percent) examined in the study. The boys’ saliva also tested as having a higher glucose concentration when compared to the girls.
In nearly every instance, the presence of each species of bacteria tested decreased as the salivary glucose levels went up. The only bacterial species to thrive in a high salivary glucose concentration was Parvimonas micra.
Roughly 88 percent of the bacterial species tested were discovered to have statistically significant changes in count between high and low glucose conditions. One of the most resilient strains to a change in glucose levels – the bacteria Streptococcus mutans – has been linked as a primary cause of tooth decay and gum disease.
In saliva samples that contained a high level of glucose, the bacterial count for 35 of the 42 species was dramatically reduced. Furthermore, the prevalence of 27 species was different compared to their low-glucose equivalents.
Researchers also calculated the bacterial count for each species in high and low glucose conditions. The researchers noted significant changes in 26 of the bacterial species under conditions of high glucose. Of these, 15 dropped in percentage while the percentage of 11 increased. The other 16 species did not significantly change in either a high or low environment.
“These alterations were stronger predictors of high salivary glucose than the other clinical measure like oral disease, obesity, sleep, or fitness,” explained researchers. “These observations clearly indicate that metabolic disease, such as diabetes, that produce elevated glucose in blood and saliva can significantly alter the oral microflora.”
An increase in glucose levels also seem to increase an individual’s risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. Kids in the study who tested as having high levels of glucose in their saliva were twice as likely to have developed cavities when compared to kids with low glucose levels. An increased rate of gum disease was also noted.
“The mouth represents a rich microbiome that is easily accessible,” wrote researchers in a statement. “Our research is providing further evidence of the connections between the mouth and some of society’s most costly and deadly systemic disease – and of the importance of using the mouth as a tool for preventive health.”