Millions of Americans have type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that impacts the body’s ability to process blood sugar. Since diabetes primarily affects your blood vessels, the repercussions can ripple throughout your body, causing damage to your heart and kidneys, and wreaking havoc on your oral health.
The link between diabetes and gum disease is well documented, with research showing that people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing gingivitis and periodontitis. But recently, a study in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology Journal found that the relationship goes both ways – gum disease can also make it difficult for diabetes patients to control their blood sugar levels. The good news is that treating gum disease can help improve their symptoms.
The Link Between Diabetes and Gum Disease
Periodontal disease is a persistent infection of the gums, characterized by redness, swelling, and bleeding. Left untreated, chronic gum inflammation can impact the surrounding bone and lead to tooth loss. People with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease because their elevated blood glucose levels make it harder for the immune system to fight off the bacteria located beneath the gum line.
Studies have also shown that diabetics with poor blood sugar control experience more severe periodontal disease than those who have their conditions in check. But the presence of gum disease can also contribute to higher blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. The link between these two serious health issues goes both ways, creating a negative feedback loop that can lead to an overall decline in wellbeing.
How Treating Gum Disease Helps People With Diabetes
A recent study of 264 patients suffering from both type 2 diabetes and periodontitis showed that treating gum disease can significantly improve the symptoms of diabetes. Not only did participants see improvement in their blood glucose levels, but their kidney and blood vessel function increased as well. While there is no definitive explanation as to why this happens, researchers theorize that treating the infection related to periodontal disease reduces systemic inflammation, which is believed to be a major cause of diabetes complications.
Treatment for periodontal disease in this study included whole mouth scaling and surgical therapy. Periodontal scaling removes dental plaque and hardened tartar from below the gum line; it’s usually accompanied by root planing, which smooths the tooth root to encourage reattachment of the gum. Pocket reduction surgery, also known as osseous surgery, is a surgical treatment that can halt the spread of bacteria and save bone tissue from being destroyed.
Preventing Gum Disease in People With Diabetes
Everyone should prioritize their oral health, but it’s especially important for people who suffer from diabetes, since taking good care of your teeth and gums can also help you better manage your blood sugar. Here are a few ways that people with diabetes can minimize the risk of developing gum disease:
- Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Brush your teeth twice a day, for two full minutes. Be sure you gently brush teeth and gums. Also, don’t forget to floss at least once a day to remove food particles and plaque that brushing can’t reach.
- Keep Your Glucose Levels Under Control
Since high blood sugar levels can encourage bacterial growth beneath your gums, make sure you’re following your doctor’s orders with regard to diabetes treatment.
- Visit the Dentist Regularly
While some people can get away with a single biannual visit to the dentist, people with diabetes may benefit from seeing their dentist more often for cleanings, x-rays, and evaluation.
- See a Periodontist for Serious Concerns
If you think you may have gum disease, a periodontist can give you a comprehensive exam and recommend a course of treatment. Signs of periodontal disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, as well as persistent bad breath or loose teeth.
Optimize Your Oral Health at San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry
While periodontal disease is frustrating and destructive, it is also highly treatable. San Diego Periodontics can design a course of treatment to reduce gum inflammation and improve the health of your smile. To find out more about our state-of-the-art, minimally invasive periodontal services, call us at (619) 543-0905.