The Diabetes and Gum Disease Connection


Submitted by Heather Eggenberger, DDS of Russell Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

Periodontal disease, often called gum disease, affects many of our dental patients.  It is a chronic, silent disease that can progress without any symptoms. Diabetes is also a common disease that many of our patients manage. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States and affects over 25 million Americans – or 8.3% of our population, and it is one of the leading causes of stroke and heart disease. Periodontal disease and diabetes are connected and if left untreated, either disease can make the other worse.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone surrounding and supporting the teeth. It ranges from gingivitis, or swollen and bleeding gums, to periodontitis.  With periodontitis, the infection has destroyed bone surrounding the teeth and the gums begin to recede from the teeth. Periodontal infection is caused by bacteria which gather and form a plaque that sticks to the teeth. If this plaque is not removed the bacteria, and the body’s immune system that fights the bacteria, begin to destroy the bone surrounding the teeth. The gums also begin to pull away from the teeth and the teeth can become loose and eventually fall out.

Diabetes is part of a group of metabolic disorders in which the body’s blood sugar is too high. This is either because the body does not make enough insulin, or the cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. Classic symptoms of diabetes are increased thirst, frequent urination, and increased hunger.

Diabetes can increase a person’s risk of developing periodontal disease and it can exacerbate existing periodontal infections. Through solid research, we are now finding that this relationship goes both ways. That is, periodontal disease can reduce a person’s ability to control their diabetes. Fortunately, research is showing that when periodontal disease is controlled, a person’s diabetes control can improve dramatically.

The American Academy of Periodontology guidelines suggest in order to maximize their diabetes control, all diabetic patients should be screened for periodontal disease and the infection should be treated as necessary. It is also important to detect periodontal disease at the earliest stages. Periodontal disease rarely causes pain and often happens without you knowing it. If you have diabetes, it is important to treat the periodontal disease even in its early stages. This can help you better control your blood sugar and therefore, reduce the likelihood of developing complications of diabetes.

There is a balance between diabetes and periodontal disease. If one or the other is not kept in check, the other condition may worsen.

At Russell Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we screen all of our adult patients for periodontal disease. We strive for our patients to achieve oral health so as to contribute to an overall state of health and well-being.

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