Diabetes and Oral Health

April 2, 2015

1783097Last week information was provided on how Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be a factor in managing Type II Diabetes, but did you know the close relationship between Periodontal Disease (gum disease) and Diabetes? As we look at treating the whole patient, not just their mouth, it is interesting how many conditions are related. Funny how our bodies work as a unit, when one thing is out of synch, it has a direct relationship to several other things. The focus for this week will be the direct relationship between controlling blood sugars and inflammation of your gums.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone holding the teeth in place. As this infection progresses it can lead to painful chewing, bad breath, and eventual tooth loss. Just like any infection, having gum disease can make it more difficult to keep blood sugars under control and uncontrolled blood sugar leads to other health issues such as eye and heart disease and nerve damage. Working with your dentist and dental hygienist to establish good oral health can be one more step in reducing your risks for complications related to diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association web site has a list of frequently asked questions about diabetes and oral health. The first question on the list is “Are people with diabetes at higher risk for gum disease?” The answer to that question is a definitive “YES”. Not only are they at a higher risk of developing gum disease, but if they already have gum disease it may be more difficult to control their blood sugar.

Scientists believe there are several factors involved with the connection between gum disease and diabetes. It is believed that changes in the blood vessels due to diabetes reduces the delivery of essential nutrients and elimination of waste products. This weakens the gums and surrounding bone’s resistance to infection, increasing the risk of disease. It is also known that bacteria can thrive in environments with higher sugar content. If glucose in the saliva is at an increased level, bacteria in the mouth can multiply and set the stage for infection. Having good glycemic control and visiting the dentist regularly are the best first steps in reducing the risk of developing gum disease.

Smoking and diabetes increases the risk of developing gum disease. Smokers are five times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers, but add poor glycemic control to that and someone is 20 times more likely to have severe oral health issues.

Working closely with primary care providers and oral healthcare specialists, diabetics can reduce their risk of developing gum disease. Diabetics with good glycemic control are at no higher risk of developing gum disease than someone without diabetes. Visiting the dentist regularly and maintaining good oral health can help reduce one complication of diabetes, tooth loss due to gum disease.

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