The relationship between our gums and our overall health is well documented and backed by a wealth of robust science. One of the most notable links is the connection between periodontal disease and diabetes. If you have any form of diabetes, it’s important to understand the increased risks for periodontal disease. In turn, you should also be aware of how periodontal disease could worsen the effects of diabetes. Taking care of your oral health is an important part of your overall health and well-being.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is caused when plaque and calculus build up along the gumline. Both plaque and calculus are filled with bacteria that begin to slowly eat away at your teeth, gums, and jaw, and cause damage over time. Periodontal disease is very common. In fact, periodontal disease impacts over 47% of adults aged 30 years or older and 70% of adults aged 65 years or older. Because periodontal disease is a serious health concern, we encourage all of our patients to learn about the causes and increased risk of periodontal disease for people with diabetes.
How are diabetes & periodontal disease connected?
The link between diabetes and periodontal disease is not a one-way street. Each can worsen the symptoms and impact the other.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body processes food and turns it into energy. Instead of being converted via the normal process by insulin, excess sugar accumulates in the bloodstream. In people with diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as effectively as it should. So how does this relate to your oral health? Well, it goes both ways. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to higher blood sugar (glucose) levels in your mouth, promoting the growth of gum disease-causing bacteria. Conversely, untreated periodontal disease can cause blood sugar to rise and make it even more difficult to control your diabetes.
Why are people with diabetes at high risk of periodontal disease?
The higher blood sugar levels in your mouth caused by diabetes promote the growth of bacteria that creates an environment where periodontal disease can thrive. In addition, diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken in the body, which can reduce the flow of nutrients and the natural removal of body-tissue waste. This reduced blood flow weakens your gums and bone over time, making you more susceptible to periodontal disease. Smoking is another risk factor to be aware of and understand. A person with diabetes who also smokes is at an even greater risk of periodontal disease.
Why is gum disease a problem for people with diabetes?
An infection in your gums naturally causes a stress response. This stress response causes certain chemicals in your body — such as cortisol and adrenaline — to increase. These hormones work against the action of insulin. As a result, the body’s production of glucose also increases, resulting in even higher blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, worsening the impact of the condition.
How to keep your gums healthy when you have diabetes
Maintaining good oral health habits is important for everyone. It’s especially vital for people suffering from diabetes to avoid developing gum disease, which may worsen their symptoms. Here’s what you can do to take care of your gums if you have diabetes:
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily for 2 minutes and floss every day.
- Talk to your periodontist about preventive treatments and get your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year.
- Tell your dentist about any changes in your diabetes and any medications you’re taking.
- Avoid smoking, vaping, and tobacco.
- Carefully manage your diabetes and control your blood glucose levels.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
We specialize in helping patients avoid & control periodontal disease
Our Roswell and Midtown Atlanta offices provide comprehensive periodontal treatments for patients with diabetes. From prevention and diagnosis to repairing and rejuvenating your gum health, we offer effective solutions and professional guidance every step of the way.
Do you have questions about the connection between diabetes and periodontal health? We’re here to help. Contact us today to get in touch and get on the road to healthier gums and a healthier body.