Your oral health and your overall wellbeing are closely linked. Diseases of the body often have implications for oral health, just as oral health issues can impact the rest of your body in unexpected ways. One example of this is the relationship between diabetes and gum disease.
How Diabetes Sets the Stage for Gum Disease
Diabetes contributes to the development of gum disease in two key ways. First, high glucose levels in saliva feed the bacteria in your mouth, encouraging overgrowth. The combination of bacteria and food debris causes plaque; when plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, it turns into a sticky substance called tartar.
Tartar leads to gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, and left untreated, gingivitis often evolves into gum disease (also known as periodontitis). Gum disease causes your gums to recede and deep infections form in the pockets between the roots of your teeth and the gum tissue. Eventually, gum disease can cause your teeth to loosen, shift, and even fall out.
Gum disease is an active infection, but like any other infection in the body, the high glucose levels in the blood caused by diabetes can impede your body’s ability to heal itself. This is the second way in which diabetes creates the perfect conditions for gum disease to take hold.
The Effects of Gum Disease on Blood Glucose
What occurs next is a continuous feedback loop between your gum disease and diabetes. Diabetes contributes to gum disease by raising glucose levels in the body. Gum disease, in turn, raises glucose levels because of the inflammation it causes. Remarkably, gum disease even raises the blood sugar of patients who don’t currently have diabetes, potentially increasing their risk for developing type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. It’s easy to see how periodontitis can quickly escalate in patients with diabetes.
There’s a simple solution to help you break the cycle—by treating gum disease, blood glucose levels will drop. In fact, drop is so dramatic that the benefit is about the same as that of taking medication to control your blood sugar. Scaling and root planing is an effective treatment that reverses gum disease in most patients, helping you get your health back on track.
Preventing Gum Disease in Patients With Diabetes
Of course, even better than treating gum disease is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Knowing the effects of glucose on your oral health, it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, and floss at least once a day, all the way down to the gum line. Finally, visit the dentist twice a year for dental checkups and cleanings. The only way to remove the tartar that causes gum disease is with a professional teeth cleaning. Regular exams allow us to closely monitor your oral health; we can identify gum disease in its earliest stages, before it causes irreversible damage to your teeth and gums.