What is the link between diabetes and gum disease?

diabetes and gum disease

Gum disease is quite common and occurs when bacteria in the mouth collect at the base of the tooth adjacent to the gums. If not properly removed through daily oral hygiene the plaque can harden into tartar, which further traps bacteria and food debris. Tartar must be removed with a professional cleaning at your dental office. If unremoved, the result is red, swollen gums, aka. “gingivitis.”

While many individuals will experience gingivitis at some point during their lifetime, research has shown that people with diabetes, especially uncontrolled, are at greater risk for developing gum disease. Moreover, the extent of the disease tends to be worse compared to individuals with healthy blood glucose levels.

The higher incidence of gum disease in individuals with uncontrolled diabetes relates in part to the way their bodies react to local infection: higher blood sugars impair immune responses, thereby making it more difficult to combat the oral bacteria responsible for the gingival inflammation. High blood sugar levels are also known to damage the blood vessels in your gums rendering them more susceptible to infection. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more advanced form of gum disease, periodontitis, which is characterized by bone loss, tooth mobility and eventually tooth loss.

Studies also show that elevated blood sugar levels correlate with higher levels of sugar in the saliva. Oral bacteria metabolize these sugars producing acid byproducts, which attack your tooth enamel, causing tooth decay.

Interestingly, studies suggest that the presence of gum disease also affects diabetic control, which can lead to other complications like heart disease.

In addition to gingivitis and tooth decay, dry mouth and thrush are very common side effects of uncontrolled diabetes. Dry mouth commonly results from “polypharmacy,” meaning from multiple medications. Dry mouth increases the risk of tooth decay and can lead to opportunistic infections by Candida albicans, the fungus know to cause “thrush.”

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise and following your physician’s recommendations regarding prescribed medication(s), looking after your teeth and gums is an integral step in controlling your diabetes. Prevention cannot be stressed enough!!

We at Green Leaf Dentistry can help you with these potential complications but urge you to maintain healthy blood sugars and visit us regularly so that we can identify any potential issues as they arise and deal with them appropriately.

Oral Signs of Uncontrolled Diabetes:

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis and associated tooth mobility and/or loss
  • Tooth decay
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Fungal infections e.g. thrush
  • Irritated and sore mouth – difficulty wearing dentures

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, please contact us at 973-989-1002 as soon as possible. Getting the right treatment early on can prevent severe infections, tooth loss and other complications later on.