New Study: Muscle Loss and Diabetes May be Linked to Poor Oral Health

Lowering the Risk of Diabetes and Muscle Loss

A group of researchers from Shimane University, in Izumo, Japan, came out with a small, longitudinal study saying that among older adults, there seems to be an increased risk of diabetes and muscle loss if they have poor oral health. They talk about poor oral health as ‘oral frailty’ which is a measurement of number of remaining teeth, chewing ability, and difficulties eating and swallowing.

Participants totaled 635, between 40 and 74 years. The researchers assess their chewing ability, or masticatory function. They also counted the number of teeth, measured calf circumference twice for both legs, as well as skeletal muscle mass and handgrip strength. To assess sarcopenia (loss of muscle and weakness due to aging), the researchers applied a standard diagnostic algorithm that incorporates muscle strength, mass, and physical performance. They also screened for diabetes and adjusted the results as per sex, age, body mass index, smoking status, alcohol use, and level of physical activity.

What were their findings?

Having fewer remaining teeth and poor chewing ability were significantly associated with a weaker handgrip and possible sarcopenia. It was also significantly associated with diabetes. There were no statistically significant associations with calf circumference or skeletal muscle mass. It was speculated that those with reduced chewing ability or fewer teeth may have an increased risk of diabetes because of eating more soft, sugar-rich foods and having shorter mealtimes. Both factors would cause a bigger spike in blood glucose levels after eating.

What are their recommendations?

To maintain chewing ability, dentures are recommended to prevent further tooth loss. Gum disease must also be treated early as they can cause tooth loss and can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity and impaired glucose tolerance. To reduce the risk of diabetes and sarcopenia, older people should eat more slowly and brush their teeth after meals. By taking care of their oral health, they would help maintain their overall health.

However, the study has some limitations. The research is relatively small, though statistically significant. It was unable to establish any causal relationships due to its cross-sectional design and it did not account for potentially important features of oral health, such as gum disease, denture use, and brushing teeth.


Watching the Oral Health of Older Adults in Bellevue

Older adults face many oral health risks that is why we at Overlake Dental make it our business to especially pay attention to our older patients’ health of teeth and gums. Come see us in Bellevue.