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Diabetes and Dental Care

diabetes-and-dental-careKeeping tabs on your health includes watching the critical signs your mouth may be telling you. People with high blood sugar levels are at risk for developing serious oral health complications associated with diabetes. Frequent gum absences, swelling, and bleeding gums all can signal to a dentist that a patient might have the disease. That’s because diabetes can weaken the mouth’s germ-fighting abilities— making you more susceptible to bacterial growth and infection.

Affiliate diabetes investigators at the University of Florida are moving advancements in patient care forward through their efforts to prevent, reverse, and arrest complications associated with the disease. Faculty members in the UF College of Dentistry are driving new efforts to understand the clinical connections between oral health and diabetes management. These leaders offer compelling snapshots of the important diabetes research initiatives emanating from UF, and deliver a passion towards helping patients restore happier, healthier smiles everyday.


Luciana Shaddox, Ph.D./D.D.S., UF College of Dentistry

Did you know that as many as 95 percent of Americans with diabetes also have periodontal (gum) disease? Dr. Luciana Shaddox is an assistant professor in the Department of Periodontology at the University of Florida. As a periodontist, she is uniquely trained in the treatment of the disease. Her primary interests pertaining to reserarch focus on the inflammatory mechanisms and possible genetic markers behind the aggressiveness of this disease in children, adolescents, and adults.

Studies have shown that people with periodontal disease have more difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels, while periodontal disease itself can increase the risk of developing diabetes. To this extent, Dr. Shaddox collaborates with other UF College of Density faculty to investigate the relationship between periodontal disease and type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM), which in turn, may lead to greater understanding of ways to help treat both conditions.

v67n06_p80Shannon Wallet, Ph.D., UF College of Dentistry

Dr. Shannon Wallet is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Periodontology. Her primary research interests focus on factors that may contribute to initiation and/or progression of type 1 diabetes (T1D) and its secondary complications.

Dr. Wallet collaborates with interdisciplinary diabetes investigators at UF to study the impact that microorganisms play in the pathology of T1D. Analyzing bacteria found in the oral cavity opens the door to future studies that may better forecast disease-risk, and turn attention on possible ways of preventing it.

Dr. Wallet is also active in research relating to bone abnormalities associated with T1D. Disruption of normal bone breakdown and reformation can lead to a lifetime of bone fragility (ie arthritis) of the gums and bones, in addition to osteoporosis — a disease that reduces bone density. Both are considered secondary complications of patients with type 1 diabetes. The goal of Dr. Wallet’s research is to develop a novel understanding of the potential causes of this phenomenon.  A grant from the American Diabetes Association is supporting her research.

Ammon-Peck_JSJ_IMG_8494-200x300Ammon Peck, Ph.D., UF College of Dentistry, UF Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine

Xerostomia, or dry mouth as it is often referred to, may be a sign of a serious health condition or may occur when a person is upset or experiences stress. It can also be brought on by disease—such as diabetes.

Distinguished professor of immunology Dr. Ammon Peck, Ph.D., associate dean for the UF College of Veterinary Medicine has researched the autoimmune factors that can result in this condition, opening a whole new paradigm for early diagnosis and potential treatment of dry mouth and related conditions.

Dr. Peck is internationally renowned for his research work with animal models in pursuing the role stem cells derived from bone marrow may play in the prevention and reversal of T1D, in addition to regenerating insulin functioning of the endocrine pancreas through harvesting of beta cells.

Samuel-B-LowSamuel B. Low, D.D.S., M.S., M.Ed., UF College of Dentistry

Dr. Low is Professor Emeritus of Periodontology in the UF College of Dentistry. He is a past President of the American Academy of Periodontology and the Florida Dental Association and a former Trustee of the American Dental Association.

General dentists and hygienists manage 90% of patients with periodontitis today, but many do not receive enough training in the treatment of the condition — which afflicts the gums and other supporting tissues around the teeth — nor its close ties with diabetes.

“Everyone should maintain healthy teeth and gums to avoid periodontal disease, but people with diabetes should pay extra attention,” according to Dr. Low. “Periodontal disease triggers the body’s inflammatory response which can affect insulin sensitivity and ultimately lead to unhealthy blood sugar levels. Establishing routine periodontal care is one way to help keep diabetes under control.”

Dr. Low is nationally recognized for his experience and dedication to the training of dental professionals in the UF College of Dentistry. His teaching emphasis on ‘team-based’ care encourages medical and dental stakeholders to work together in diagnosing, treating and managing patients who suffer from the disease as well as other significant oral health complications.

For more information on detecting diabetes or pre-diabetes with the help of your dental care provider, be sure to check out the Brochure: Oral Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes, offered by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA).

To make an appointment with the UF College of Dentistry, call (352) 273-6701. You will be directed to a UF dental center that can best meet your oral health care needs.