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Texas Researchers Look At Diabetes & Dental Health

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A dental hygienist cleans the teeth of a patient. (credit: Getty Images/John Moore)

A dental hygienist cleans the teeth of a patient. (credit: Getty Images/John Moore)

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Those suffering from diabetes must also deal with the toll the disease can take on their teeth. Researchers are trying to find out if correcting gum and tooth problems can lead to better blood sugar control.

Healthy eating is crucial to a diabetic’s diet, and there’s plenty of good food available. But in reality, many diabetics don’t eat what they should – because they can’t.

Patients like 64-year-old Ed Rabideau have shifting dentures. In the past dentists have offered him implants as ‘anchors’, since diabetics don’t heal as well as other patients. “You eat something and it floats around. You get food under it [dentures]. It’s very painful at times,” said Rabideau.

The University of Texas Health Science Center dental school is conducting a study to try and see if fixing poorly fitted dentures will help diabetics manage their disease better.

Patients have two implants placed where their lower canines used to be. The implants act like an anchor for the replacement teeth. “Once we place the locators inside their denture and snap them into place, the transformation is amazing,” claimed dental researcher Dr. Peggy Alexander. “There’s a relaxation that we see that is just phenomenal.”

The federally funded study also focuses on gum disease. Dentists want to see if aggressive treatment can help diabetics control their blood sugar.

The idea is simple. If diabetics have healthy gums, or dentures that fit correctly, they should be able to eat a healthier diet. With that diet will come improved blood sugar control.

Ultimately, improved chewing can mean a better quality of life. “I had problems biting through even a sandwich… to get through it. It would shift around,” explained Rabideau. “And it’s really made a change. If I’d have known it was going to be such a change, I would have done this a long time ago, paid the price.”

It’s recommended that diabetic sufferers see their dentist at least twice a year.

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