Understanding the Link Between Diabetes and Gum Disease

diabetes gum disease

Gum disease, termed gingivitis in its early stage and periodontitis in its more serious stage, is an infection of the gums. Diabetes is a disease that causes high blood sugar levels due to a lack of the hormone insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or cell resistance to insulin’s effects (Type 2 diabetes). What you may not know is that if you have diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing gum disease.

At Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, Dr. Ellis has treated many patients who have gum disease, which is also called periodontal disease. And as an expert in this condition, Dr. Ellis is very familiar with the link between diabetes and gum disease. In this blog, she explains what that link is.

The basics of periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is a condition in which plaque and tartar begin to get a stronghold above, and eventually, below the gum line. This, in turn, leads to infection and inflammation of the gum tissue.

In the early stages of gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red, and they may bleed when you brush and floss. If the disease progresses to periodontitis, the gums begin to pull away from the tooth roots, and you can lose underpinning bone tissue, and affected teeth may become loose or even fall out.

A recent CDC report indicated that, in the United States:

  • 47.2% of adults aged 30 and older have some form of periodontal disease
  • 70.1% of adults aged 65 and older have periodontal disease

While a professional cleaning may be all that’s needed to treat the early stages of gum disease, if it’s allowed to progress to periodontitis, scaling and root planing may be required.

The link between diabetes and gum disease

People with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease than people without diabetes. One reason is because diabetes can increase the amount of glucose in the saliva. This, in turn, can give harmful bacteria more to feed on, which can result in plaque and tartar.

Furthermore, diabetes can cause the salivary glands to produce lower quality saliva. This can result in dry mouth, which could allow harmful bacteria to grow rapidly.

Also, diabetes can compromise the immune system. This, in turn, can affect the body’s ability to heal. So if gum problems start, the body can have a harder time fighting them off.

And to add another layer of complexity, the link between diabetes and gum disease can go both directions. While having high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of developing gum disease, having gum disease can increase blood sugar levels.

Focusing on oral health

With these things in mind, if you have diabetes, you need to make taking care of your oral health a priority. This means brushing and flossing regularly and going to regular checkups.

However, if you don’t think you have diabetes, you should know that according to a 2017 study, some 1 in 5 people with periodontitis also had type 2 diabetes — but they didn’t know it. As a result, the researchers suggested that semiannual dental checkups could provide an opportunity for dentists to screen patients for prediabetes and diabetes.

If you have diabetes, you need a dentist who understands the relationship between the disease and your periodontal health. To get the help you need, call the office at 925-478-3237 or book an appointment online with Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. today.