SANANTONIO -- Diabetes can take a toll on your teeth. Now,U.T. Health Science Center Dental School researchers want 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. There s plenty of good food available. In reality, though, 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 haven t offered implant as anchors since diabetics don t heal as well as other patients.

You eat. It floats around, he explained. You get food under it. It s very painful at times. I use a lot of Anbesol for pain and stuff like that.

The U.T. Health Science Center Dental School is conducting a federally-funded study, trying to see if fixing poorly-fitting dentures will help diabetics manage their disease better.

Patients have two implants placed where their lower canines used to be. They 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, said Dr. Peggy Alexander, a UTHSC dental researcher. There s a relaxation that we see that is just phenomenal.

Dentists are also looking at gum disease. This nasty, low-grade infection can lead to bone loss and ultimately tooth loss. It s exponentially worse in diabetics. Treating it aggressively could help people control their blood sugars better.

Yes, we re helping their gum disease, said UTHSC dental researcher Dr. Thomas Oates. But also by treating their gum disease, it has the potential to make their diabetes better as well.

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

As strange as it sounds, improved chewing can mean a better quality of life.

It s life changing, Alexander observed. These people will tell you they re eating foods they haven t eaten in years.

Rabideau said he used to have problems simply biting through a sandwich. Since he got the implant anchors, he said it s made a big difference. If I d have known it was going to be such a change, I would have done this a long time ago, he said.

The studies are funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the National institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The studies are ongoing. The dental school still needs dozens of diabetics to volunteer. It s a great way to get low cost dental therapy.

For more information, call (210) 567-5076.
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