Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing infections compared to those without diabetes. It is less known that periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis or gum disease, is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes, especially when the diabetes is poorly controlled. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that can result in tooth loss if not treated promptly. It starts with a bacterial infection in the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. As the bacteria multiply, the gum pockets deepen, the gums recede, and the periodontitis eventually affects the underlying bone tissue.

Diabetes is characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Type II diabetics struggle to regulate insulin levels, leading to excess glucose remaining in the blood. Type I diabetics do not produce any insulin. Diabetes is a serious condition that can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Reasons for the Connection

The relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease can have a negative impact on both conditions if they are not properly controlled. Here are some ways in which diabetes and periodontal disease are connected:

  1. Increased blood sugar: Moderate and severe periodontal disease can raise sugar levels in the body, making it challenging for diabetics to control their blood sugar. The higher sugar levels in the mouths of diabetics provide nourishment for bacteria that worsen periodontal infections.

  2. Blood vessel thickening: Thickened blood vessels are a significant concern for individuals with diabetes. These vessels play a crucial role in delivering nutrients and removing waste products from tissues. In diabetes, the thickened blood vessels impede these exchanges, leaving harmful waste in the mouth. This can weaken gum tissue's resistance and lead to infection and gum disease.

  3. Smoking: Tobacco use has detrimental effects on oral health. It not only hampers the healing process but also significantly increases the risk of developing periodontal disease. Diabetic smokers, particularly those aged 45 and above, face an exponentially greater risk of developing periodontal disease.

  4. Poor oral hygiene:Maintaining excellent oral health is vital for diabetics. When daily brushing and flossing are neglected, harmful oral bacteria can thrive on the excess sugar between the teeth and below the gum line. This worsens the metabolic problems experienced by individuals with diabetes.

By understanding these connections, it becomes clear that controlling diabetes and practicing good oral hygiene are essential for managing both diabetes and periodontal disease effectively.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It is crucial for individuals with diabetes to visit the dentist at least twice a year for checkups and professional cleanings. Studies have shown that simple non-surgical treatments for gum disease can reduce the HbA1c count (a blood test for measuring average blood sugar levels) by up to 20% within six months.

During the dental visit, the dentist will assess the risk factors for gum disease by reviewing the patient's medical and family history, as well as dental X-rays. They will evaluate the condition of the gums, teeth, and jawbone. If necessary, the dentist will collaborate with other doctors to effectively manage both diabetes and gum disease.

Non-surgical procedures performed by the dentist and dental hygienist include deep scaling to remove tartar above and below the gumline, and root planing to smooth the tooth root and eliminate remaining bacteria. Antibiotics may be applied to the gum pockets to aid in healing.

The dentist and hygienist will provide recommendations for proper home care and oral maintenance before and after periodontal treatment. They may also prescribe prescription mouthwashes to prevent further bacteria growth. Following these guidelines can help control and manage both diabetes and gum disease effectively.

If you have questions or concerns about diabetes or periodontal disease, please contact our office.

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