NYU College of Dentistry Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion Dr. Ananda P. Dasanayake has been awarded a one-year NYU Global Public Health Research Challenge Fund grant to continue his study of how periodontal disease can contribute to gestational diabetes mellitus.
Dr. Dasanayake's hypothesis is that molecules related to periodontal disease block insulin, the hormone that enables cells to absorb glucose, the body's main source of energy. In gestational diabetes, the body cannot transport glucose to the cells during pregnancy.
"Although gestational diabetes usually disappears when pregnancy ends, nine out of ten women who have had gestational diabetes will later develop the most common form of diabetes, known as Type 2, and their babies will be at risk for developing it, too," said Dr. Dasanayake, adding that Type 2 diabetes has already been linked to inflammation caused by periodontal disease. He is collaborating with researchers at Khon Kaen Hospital and Khon Kaen University Teaching Hospital in northeast Thailand.
Thailand was chosen for the study because Thai women have low rates of smoking and alcohol use, thus enabling Dr. Dasanayake to eliminate these practices as possible risk factors for periodontal disease and gestational diabetes mellitus in his study.
The women will be given a periodontal examination and tests to screen for gestational diabetes. Dr. Dasanayake hypothesizes that those women found to have the greatest amount of bleeding and inflammation in their gums as a result of periodontal disease will have the highest levels of glucose in their blood. Such a finding would bolster the results of a previous study completed in spring 2009, in Sri Lanka, in which pregnant women with periodontal disease and low smoking and alcohol use rates were shown to be at increased risk for developing gestational diabetes.
"If our hypothesis is borne out, it will be further evidence that women should see a dentist if they are thinking of becoming pregnant, and even after becoming pregnant," said Dr. Dasanayake. "Treating gum disease during pregnancy has been shown to be safe and effective in improving women's oral health and minimizing potential risks."