The Link Between Periodontal Disease And Diabetes
Research has shown that diabetics are more prone to developing infections, including oral bacterial infections like gingivitis and periodontitis. Periodontal disease is sometimes considered to be a sixth complication of diabetes, especially when it is not properly under control.
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a progressive degradation of the gum and bone tissue in one’s mouth that is caused by a bacterial infection called gingivitis. Gingivitis, a non-destructive gum disease, can progress into a destructive form of periodontitis, which often leads to tooth loss when left untreated.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that is characterized by excess glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. Type I diabetics are incapable of producing insulin, which regulates carbohydrates and fat metabolism in the body. Type II diabetics are unable to regulate their insulin levels, which leaves surplus glucose in the blood. In either case, diabetes can be a serious condition that increases one’s likelihood for heart disease and strokes, as well as infections.
How Are The Two Diseases Connected?
Because of its close connection, if either diabetes or periodontal disease is not properly controlled, both conditions are likely to worsen at the same time.
Diabetes and gum disease are linked in several ways:
Higher blood sugar levels – In the more advanced stages of gum disease, glucose levels in the body increase, which lengthens the amount of time the body is required to function with abnormally high blood sugar levels. For this reason, diabetics with periodontitis have a hard time controlling their blood sugar levels. Additionally, higher sugar levels found in the mouth help create an environment that enables the bacteria colonies between the teeth and gums to thrive and worsen periodontal infections.
Blood vessel thickening – A primary concern for diabetics is the thickening of blood vessels. When properly functioning, blood vessels serve as passageways to deliver nutrients throughout the body and remove waste from the body. For diabetes sufferers, blood vessels can become too thick for these vital functions to take place. When blood vessels thicken, harmful waste from periodontitis remains in the oral cavity, which can cause weakened gum tissue, bacterial infection and gum disease.
Smoking – Tobacco use is incredibly harmful to the oral cavity in multiple ways. Not only does tobacco use increase the chances of an individual contracting periodontal disease, but tobacco users are also slower to heal and recover from the disease. The risk of developing the disease is 20 times greater for diabetics who smoke, particularly in adults 45 years or older.
Poor oral hygiene – It is crucial for diabetics to uphold high standards of proper oral health. Poor oral hygiene, such as irregular brushing and flossing, can cause the harmful oral bacteria to consume the excess sugar between teeth and colonize rapidly beneath the gum line. This, in turn, intensifies existing metabolic issues in diabetes sufferers.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Dentists will check family and medical histories, use dental x-rays and conduct a thorough oral examination to determine a person’s risk of developing periodontal disease. Dentists work collaboratively with other medical doctors to ensure both diabetes and periodontal disease are managed, controlled and treated in the best way possible.
Simple non-invasive periodontal treatments can lower a diabetic’s HbA1c (hemoglobin molecule blood test) count by 20% over six months, so it crucial for diabetes suffers to visit a dentist at least twice a year for exams and professional teeth cleanings.
Non-surgical Periodontal treatments include:
- Deep scaling– a procedure where calculus (tartar) is removed from the teeth above and below the gum line.
- Root planing– a procedure where the root of the tooth is smoothed down to remove any remaining bacteria.
- Antibiotics– medicinal antibiotics can be applied directly to the gum pockets to promote healing.
Your dentist will also outline the best home care practices and oral maintenance, and he or she may prescribe prescription mouthwashes to prevent the advancement of bacteria colonization down the road.
If you have any questions about how to treat your co-occurring diseases, or if you are in need of a dental exam, give us a call at 858 490-4682 today!