RESEARCHERS have found a deadly link between gum disease and diabetes which affects between 10 and 14 per cent of Jamaica's adult population — persons 15 years old and over.
The discovery has caused one of the foremost diabetes researchers at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Dalip Ragoobirsingh, to call on the medical fraternity here to include dental health tips in strategies to manage people with diabetes.
"Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes," said Ragoobirsingh, UWI professor of medical biochemistry and diabetology.
Ragoobirsingh told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that so serious was the link between the two diseases that for the first time in its 19-year history, the annually held International Diabetes Conference would focus heavily on the problem under the theme "Diabetes and Oral health".
UWI is partnering with the University of Technology (UTech) to stage the 19th Annual International Diabetes Conference, which is regarded as the premier medical meeting in the Caribbean, from March 21 to 23, 2013 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, St Ann.
Providing statistics on the prevalence of diabetes in Jamaica, Ragoobirsingh said between 10 and 14 per cent of the adult population suffered with diabetes. The problem was worsened by the fact that an additional two per cent of that population suffered impaired glucose tolerance, which presented with similar complications to diabetes and which made victims vulnerable to diabetes.
"Patients and their home care-givers need to be advised that people with diabetes are more vulnerable to oral health challenges than their non-diabetic counterparts. Emerging research also suggests that the relationship between serious gum disease and diabetes is two-way. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes," Ragoobirshing told a press conference to launch next month's conference.
"Research suggests that people with diabetes are at higher risk for oral health problems, such as gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) and periodontitis (serious gum disease). People with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums," he said.
(See more from Professor Dalip Ragoobirsingh)