Diabetes’ links to gum disease are well-known, but a new study shows it can trigger periodontal problems in children as young as 6.
Prior to this study, experts believed the destruction of gums in people with diabetes started at a much later age, and then increased as they grew older.
In the study, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City assessed dental cavities and periodontal disease in 182 children and adolescents (aged 6 to 18) with diabetes, and in 160 young people without diabetes.
Reporting in the February issue of Diabetes Care, the team found that youngsters with diabetes had much more dental plaque and gingival inflammation than those without diabetes.
Early signs of gum disease were found in nearly 60 percent of the 6- to 11-year-old children with diabetes, compared to about 30 percent of nondiabetic children in the same age group. Nearly 80 percent of the 12-to-18-year-olds had early signs of gum disease.
“Our research illustrates that programs to prevent and treat periodontal disease should be considered a standard of care for young patients with diabetes,” principal investigator Ira B. Lamster, dean of the College of Dental Medicine, said in a prepared statement.
“Other studies have shown that patients with diabetes are significantly less likely than those without diabetes to have seen a dentist within the past year,” study co-author Dr. Robin Goland, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, said in a prepared statement.
“This was due to a perceived lack of need, so clearly it’s important that physicians and dentists and their patients with diabetes learn that they need to focus extra attention on oral health,” Goland said.
This study is ongoing, and will eventually include 700 volunteers.