What is the link between Diabetes and Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)?
More and more studies are showing a link between the mouth and the rest of the body regarding the spreading of infections. Over 400 different types of bacteria can exist in the human mouth. Many of them thrive in sugars, including glucose, the sugar linked to diabetes. Persons with diabetes have greater than normal risk of gingivitis (inflammation and bleeding of the gums) and periodontal disease, the condition that causes millions of people to lose their teeth. Like any infection, gum disease can make controlling the blood-sugar level very difficult. Diabetes can cause the blood vessels to thicken, in turn slowing the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes. The result is weakening the resistance of the gums and bone tissue to the spread of infection. Researchers have found that diabetes predisposes a patient to gum disease. Moreover, recent evidence strongly suggests gum disease can worsen the severity of one’s diabetic condition.
Many diabetic patients with severe cases of gum disease struggle to maintain their normal blood-sugar levels, and as a result their need for insulin increases, infections originating in the mouth can easily spread, and may enter the bloodstream. In cases of severe gingivitis and periodontal disease even the simple act of brushing or flossing can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream, aggravating health troubles in other areas of the body. Experts expect that treatment of periodontal disease may lead to diminished fluctuations of blood-sugar levels, along with a decreased risk of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina that could lead to blindness in diabetics) and the associated risk of damage to the arteries.
People with diabetes are also at risk for developing thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth that causes white spots on the tongue. This infection thrives on high glucose levels in saliva. Another oral manifestation found in uncontrolled or undetected diabetics is dry mouth (xerostomia), an ailment that may result in halitosis (bad breath). Smokers are five times more likely to develop gum disease. A smoker with diabetes aged 45 or older is 20 times more likely to get severe gum disease.
If you have diabetes, make certain to inform your dentist and book a visit for an examination and cleaning at least every six months. You should schedule your dental appointments for about hour and a half after breakfast and after you have taken your diabetes medication. Try to arrange shorter visits, preferably in the morning.