The Relationship Between Diabetes and Gum Disease

Gum disease (which also known as periodontal disease) is the most common type of mouth problem, and it may affect up to half of the global population.  

Certain people are more at risk of gum disease than others – diabetics being one of these groups. If you have diabetes, read on for more information about keeping your mouth and teeth healthy.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is a general umbrella term for a couple of different conditions, namely gingivitis (which is reversible) and periodontitis, which is the more severe form of gum disease and involves destroyed tissue. Symptoms, in any case, may be gum bleeding, recession, or drifting and tooth loss.  

Sometimes people don’t know that they have it and this can go on for years. That’s why older persons are more susceptible to the disease.  

Gum Disease and Diabetes: What’s the Link?

People with diabetes are approximately three times more likely to get severe gum disease and tooth loss. That is likely due in part because they are more prone to inflammation in the mouth.

Though each disease seems to affect the other, scientists aren’t completely clear on the exact relationship between the two. They do know that both seem to show up at the same time, and that gum diseases somehow affects glycemic control in type 2 diabetics.  

Another commonality in people with both diseases (at least type 2 diabetes) is that both tend to occur in middle age. People with type 2 form of diabetes and gum disease are 3.2 times more likely to die than their counterparts.  

Type 1 diabetes can also cause gum disease, and both can happen at any age. But in the former case (with type 2), gum disease tends to be more severe. What’s more, diabetics don’t heal from mild forms of gum disease as well as healthy (non-diabetic) patients do.

Diabetes and Dental Care Management

People with more severe cases of diabetes or who are less able to control their blood sugar levels are more at risk of gum disease. The better you can manage your diabetes, the more you may be able to prevent gum problems. This holds true in the opposite way. The better you control your gum disease, the lower blood sugar you will get.

Experts suggest that proper periodontal therapy can help blood sugar control, which then, in turn, reduces diabetic complications. Thus, careful management of both diseases at once is the best course of care for diabetic patients.

Are You at Risk?

Of course, diabetes isn’t the only factor that can put you at risk of gum disease. Other risk factors include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Low calcium
  • Genetics
  • Age

So if you have a combination of these factors, it’s best to see your dentist a few times a year. Let your oral care practitioner know of your situation and that you believe you may be in a high-risk category for gum disease. They will be able to help you manage and hopefully prevent the problems associated with periodontal disease.   

If you have diabetes or you know of someone who does, and you’re worried about current or advancing gum disease, a dentist will be able to give you appropriate information for managing gum disease given the propensity for it to be more severe in diabetic patients.

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