The Relationship Between Diabetes and Periodontal Disease
For those affected by diabetes – almost 8% of the American population by some estimates – related health problems can complicate your life. Potential circulatory, vision, kidney and nerve issues require diabetics to carefully monitor their blood glucose levels and manage their disease. But periodontal disease, or gum disease, is also a significant related illness for diabetics to keep in mind.
Diabetes is a disease that affects how your body regulates blood sugar (glucose). Diabetics have too much glucose in their blood and, left unmanaged, that condition can wreak havoc on many of the body’s delicate systems.
High glucose levels in saliva make diabetics particularly susceptible to periodontal disease. Bacteria can thrive in that glucose-rich environment, which leads to plaque – an acid-producing film that can permanently damage teeth and gums. Diabetes also lowers the body’s ability to fight infection, permitting periodontal disease to worsen rapidly.
These factors make it essential for diabetics to learn to manage their disease diligently. The incidence of periodontal disease in patients with inadequate blood sugar control is higher than in those with good control of their diabetes.
Warning signs of periodontal disease include:
• Swollen, red, or tender gums that bleed easily
• Gums that are receding from the teeth
• Changes in your bite or the way your teeth fit together
• Changes in the fit of partial dentures
Left unchecked, periodontal disease can damage the gums and bone supporting the teeth and lead to tooth loss.
To further prevent periodontal disease, diabetics should:
• Brush and floss their teeth daily
• Schedule regular dental check ups and cleanings
• Maintain a balanced and healthy diet, particularly with regard to blood sugar management
• Communicate clearly with your dentist about your condition and whether or not it is under control
Dry mouth (Xerostomia) is a common condition among patients with diabetes; this also can lead to periodontal disease because saliva aids in the washing away of bacteria-producing food particles. Your dentist can recommend a saliva substitute as well as fluoride washes to compensate for a reduction in saliva.
Diabetes and periodontal disease are both manageable – through prevention. By maintaining healthy oral hygiene habits, from cleaning to diet, diabetics can ensure a healthy defense against periodontal disease.