Your Gum Health and Diabetes

Research continues to confirm the connection between gum health and diabetes. With more than 11% of our population battling diabetes, and nearly 50% of adults aged 30 and over experiencing some form of gum disease, controlling both diseases is important for your overall health.

The American Diabetes Association says that people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing early-stage gum disease (gingivitis) and even advanced gum disease, known as periodontitis. Even if you don’t have diabetes, inflammation from uncontrolled gum disease can raise blood sugar levels which can, in turn, increase your risk for developing diabetes.

At the Pennsylvania Center for Dental Implants and Periodontics, we help our patients understand the link between gum health and major diseases, such as diabetes. With education, we can prevent significant gum deterioration and provide periodontal care in early-stage gum disease.

The Link Between Diabetes and Gum Disease

The CDC reports an alarming increase in diabetes cases in the U.S., with numbers reported as more than 38 million. Diabetes, a chronic condition, occurs when the body is unable to either create or utilize its own insulin, the essential hormone produced by cells in the pancreas. Our bodies need insulin to help regulate glucose (blood sugar) levels which provide vital energy to our cells and tissues.

Diabetes can cause the body to produce less saliva, our body’s natural way of helping protect our teeth and gums from bacteria build-up. People with diabetes may also have increased glucose in their saliva which may also lead to bacterial and plaque-build up.

Taking care of your teeth is a definite priority for individuals with diabetes for whom the higher blood sugar content in their bodies can weaken the white blood cells that help us fight infection. These individuals may not heal as fast as people that don’t have diabetes, which could make gum disease even harder to control.

Conversely, the gums of individuals with gum disease can be inflamed. Inflammation in the body may result in higher blood sugar (blood glucose) levels, which then could increase your risk of developing diabetes and make the disease harder to control.

Signs of Periodontal Disease can Include:

• Gums that bleed easily and feel tender
• Swollen, bright red or dark red/purple gums
• Bleeding during brushing or flossing
• Persistent bad breath not attributable to other causes
• Dental appliances that suddenly don’t fit properly
• Loose or shifting teeth

Early Symptoms of Diabetes Can Include:  

• Frequent urination
• Lethargy and weakness
• Extreme thirst and appetite
• Unexplained weight loss
• Cuts that are slow to heal
• Dry mouth
• Fruity/Sweet-smelling breath
• Vision changes

If you have diabetes or are experiencing some of the symptoms of diabetes, (see above) be sure to see your medical practitioner for a proper diagnosis and/or continued treatment. At the same time, be sure to keep your dental professionals informed about your health and follow special cleaning advice.

Treating Gum Disease

The good news is that managing diabetes may help you prevent gum disease, and that if you have gum disease, it’s treatable. More and more research helps us understand that total body care is imperative when managing diabetes.

Taking care of your teeth and gums with proper daily, home hygiene and regular visits to your dental professionals as suggested will help keep your mouth—and your body— healthier, and perhaps save you money in the long-term by avoiding more expensive and complicated solutions down the road.

Smoking Increases Risks

Smoking not only increases your risk of having gum disease, it makes it harder for your mouth to heal. And, according to experts, smoking can make it harder to manage diabetes and actually increase your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Quitting can help your body start to heal.

Call our office to set up a consultation if you think you may have gum disease. In its earliest stage, (gingivitis), gum disease can be reversible. For more advanced gum disease, we manage gum disease with scaling and root planing, pocket reduction and bone regenerative procedures and LANAP™ laser gum treatment, all effective and clinically proven ways of keeping you and your mouth healthier. Taking care of your mouth helps prevent chewing difficulties and possible tooth loss as well as improve blood sugar control for those who are living with diabetes.

For more information on the link between periodontal disease and diabetes, visit the JDRF Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mayo Clinic.

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