Is There a Link Between Gum Disease and Diabetes?
New research is suggesting a link between gum disease and diabetes. While it's established that people with diabetes are more prone to developing gum disease, this new research implies that chronic gum disease may be a risk factor for diabetes.
How does this happen? Gum disease can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream and activate cells that produce inflammatory biological signals that have a destructive effect throughout the body. In the pancreas, the cells responsible for insulin (blood sugar) can be damaged or destroyed. Once this happens, it may trigger Type 2 diabetes — even in a healthy individual with no other risk factors for diabetes.
The Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health states that good oral health is integral to general health. So be sure to brush and floss properly and see your dentist for regular checkups.
If I Have Diabetes, Am I at Risk for Dental Problems?
If your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, gum disease can be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and make diabetes harder to control.
Other oral problems linked to diabetes include: thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities.
How Can I Help Prevent Dental Problems Associated with Diabetes?
First and foremost, control your blood glucose level. Then, take good care of your teeth and gums, along with regular checkups every six months. To control thrush, a fungal infection, maintain good diabetic control, avoid smoking and, if you wear them, remove and clean dentures daily. Good blood glucose control can also help prevent or relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.
What Can I Expect at My Checkup? Should I Tell My Dentist About My Diabetes?
People with diabetes have special needs and your dentist is equipped to meet those with your help. Keep your dentist informed of any changes in your condition and any medication you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in good control.