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Diabetes & Periodontal Disease Make Each Condition Worse

There are over 29 million Americans with diabetes. Each one is 2 – 4 times more likely to have periodontal disease, which leads to tooth loss. In turn, periodontal disease can worsen diabetes by making makes it more difficult to control blood glucose and inflammation. From mild gingivitis to severe periodontitis For people with diabetes, seeing a periodontist for treatment of mild gingivitis to severe periodontitis can save their teeth and help manage their diabetes. 

Two Inflammatory Diseases

Periodontal disease  is a bacterial infection. Characterized by inflamed or bleeding gums, bad breath, or sometimes no symptoms at all, it affects more than 50% of the adult population in the U.S.   Because it develops silently over time,  a high percentage of people don’t realize they have it.  Untreated, periodontal disease destroys the gum and bone tissue that surrounds the tooth, eventually causing the loss of that tooth.

This risk of periodontal disease doubles if the person has diabetes.  

Diabetes, both Type I and Type II, is a chronic disease involving the inability to properly regulate insulin and blood sugar (glucose).  Without proper management, diabetes both reacts to and creates inflammation which can lead to  lead to complications affecting the entire body. Nerve damage, kidney disease, retina damage, and small and large blood vessel diseases are common. Doctors treating patients with diabetes routinely screen for these conditions, and ask patients to do so at home.

Often overlooked is periodontal disease, which has been labeled “the sixth complication of diabetes.”  Just as medical specialists manage the other related complications, periodontists are specialists in diagnosing, monitoring and managing periodontal disease to help diabetic patients keep their teeth.

Diabetes Worsens Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease at its earliest stages is caused by a bacterial infection in the gums.  According to the American Diabetes Association, patients with diabetes are at a greater risk of developing periodontal disease because a compromised immune system leaves them more susceptible to infection, with a decreased ability to fight it off.  While  poorly controlled blood glucose levels contributes to inflammation of the gums, even  those with minimally elevated blood sugar levels will have a more difficult time fighting infection without treatment. 

With diabetes, damage caused by periodontal disease is likely to progress at a faster rate. Studies show more severe levels of bone loss and more aggressive gum disease advancement.

Periodontal Disease Aggravates Diabetes

Any bacterial infection makes it harder to manage blood sugar levels. Periodontal disease aggravates diabetes. It increases blood glucose, inflammation and resistance to insulin, contributing the development and progression of diabetes

Research has suggested that periodontitis may be an indicator of developing Type II diabetes later in life, mostly due to the inflammation it creates. During a 20-year study of 9,000 adults, half with periodontal disease and half with good oral health, 800 developed Type II diabetes. Researchers believe the inflammation and chronic infection of the gums can contribute to developing diabetes.

 Periodontal Disease Impacts Other Health Risks

Periodontal disease on its own has been shown to contribute to health conditions that are commonly associated with diabetes, such as stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. If both periodontal disease and diabetes are contributing to these conditions, the impact may be more damaging.

My Recommendation

There are so many ways diabetes and periodontal disease can damage your health, both separately and together. The benefits of maintaining good oral health are obvious and important. I strongly encourage patients with diabetes, patients who may be at risk of diabetes, and anyone seeking to save their teeth and maintain their overall health to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive periodontal examination.  I am a specialist, and I’m here to help keep your mouth, your teeth, and your whole body healthy.

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