Are Diabetes and Gum Disease Related?

As I explained to Rick when he came into my office, there is a connection between diabetes and periodontal disease. Many patients with diabetes also suffer from periodontal disease. There are many reasons why diabetics are susceptible to gum disease.

Changes in Blood Vessel

Diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken and become less efficient. Blood vessels are responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients to the mouth and clearing away waste from body tissues. Thick and inefficient blood vessels prevent nutrients from reaching the mouth and cause a buildup of waste, making the gums more susceptible to infection.

Glucose Levels and Bacteria

Type one and type two diabetics have too much glucose, sometimes referred to as blood sugar, in their blood. When glucose levels are high because diabetes is poorly controlled, blood sugar present in oral fluids can contribute to periodontal disease. Many types of bacteria that cause gum disease, feed on glucose. High glucose levels in the mouth provide an environment in which bacteria thrive and gum disease consequently thrives as well. In some cases severe gum disease can actually cause an increase in blood sugar levels, putting the patient at increased risk for complications from diabetes.

Greater Risk For Infection

Diabetes reduces the body’s ability to resist infections. Gums are therefore easily infected in patients with compromised immune systems. Diabetes also hinders the body’s ability to heal itself. It may take much longer for a diabetic to completely heal from an infection than it would a non-diabetic. So not only are diabetics more likely to have periodontal problems, but it is likely that they will also take a considerable amount of time to heal and are thus more likely to suffer complications of gum disease.

What Should You Do?

When Rick came to see me his diabetes was not very well controlled. Rick needed to effectively manage his diabetes in order to treat his gum disease. Well controlled diabetes is far less likely to cause gum disease than diabetes that is not successfully managed. It is important to work with your doctor and your dentist to find a treatment plan that works for you.

Speaking of the dentist, people with diabetes should see their dentist regularly. Your dentist can properly assess the health of your mouth, and clean away any buildup of plaque or tartar before it becomes a serious health concern. You and your dentist may need to be more diligent about scheduling professional cleanings than a non-diabetic patient, because diabetics are more susceptible to infections and more likely to contract serious infections.

It’s also important to maintain good oral hygiene habits in your everyday life.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque from your mouth before it turns into tartar and bonds to your teeth.

Floss daily to reach those small spaces that your toothbrush can’t reach.

Use a mouth rinse with antimicrobial properties to help kill bacteria and prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

Rick has been able to prevent tooth loss and major complications from gum disease by caring for his teeth and gums at home and coming in for regular dental cleanings. Rick also had to learn to manage his diabetes in order to decrease his risk of suffering from gum disease. Diabetes does make your more susceptible to periodontal disease, and in some cases periodontal disease can increase glucose levels and make your diabetes worse. It’s necessary to follow Rick’s lead and work with your doctor and your dentist to treat both your diabetes and gum disease.

If you’re concerned about how diabetes may be affecting your oral health, or you just want to explore your options for preventing gum disease, click here to schedule a consultation with me.

In next week’s newsletter, we’ll talk about the connection between heart disease and gum disease.

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