Diabetes and Oral Health

According to the American Diabetes Association, during the past 10 years, much research has been undertaken on the link between diabetes and periodontal disease. Periodontal (gum) disease is the sixth leading complication of diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop periodontal disease, with a higher rate of more severe levels of bone loss and gum infection.

Diabetes is a serious disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other foods into energy. Normally, insulin helps get sugar from the blood to the body’s cells, where it is used for energy. When you have diabetes, your body has trouble making and/or producing insulin, so your body does not get the fuel it needs and your blood sugar stays too high. High blood sugar sets off processes that can lead to complications, such as heart, kidney, and eye disease, or other serious problems.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums, ligaments, and bone that support your teeth and hold them in the jaw. If left untreated, you may experience tooth loss. The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless microbial film that constantly forms on your teeth. Toxins (or poisons) produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums, causing infection.

It’s a two way street!
Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.  Periodontal disease may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.

The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

Diabetic Control: Gum disease is linked to blood glucose control. People with poor blood sugar control get gum disease more often, more severely and they tend to lose more teeth due to bone loss.

Blood Vessel Changes: Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nourishment to body tissues, including the mouth, and carry away the tissues’ waste product. Diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken, which slows the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes, increasing the risk of gum infection.

• Bacteria: Many kinds of bacteria thrive on sugars, including glucose – the sugar linked to diabetes. When diabetes is poorly controlled, high glucose levels in saliva enable germs to grow and set the stage for gum disease.

• Smoking: A smoker with diabetes, age 45 or older, is 20x more likely to get severe gum disease.

Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease

• Red and swollen gums that bleed often during brushing or flossing and are tender to the touch
• Gums that have pulled away from the teeth, exposing the roots
• Milky white or yellowish plaque deposits, which are usually heaviest between the teeth
• Pus between the teeth and gums accompanied by tenderness or swelling in the gum area
• A consistent foul, offensive odor from the mouth

How Can I Help Prevent Dental Problems Associated with Diabetes?

  • First and foremost, control your blood glucose level. 
  • Take good care of your teeth and gums on a daily basis.
  • Be sure to be seen for your regular dental checkups every six months.
  • To control thrush, a fungal infection, maintain good diabetic control, avoid smoking and, if you wear them, remove and clean dentures daily. Good blood glucose control can also help prevent or relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.

People with diabetes have special needs and your dentist and hygienist are equipped to meet those needs—with your help! Keep your dentist and hygienist informed of any changes in your condition and any medication you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in good control.

Schedule an appointment today with one of our Dental Professionals!