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Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

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Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

diabetesResearch has documented well the connection between diabetes and an increased risk of infections. In some circles, periodontal disease is considered the sixth complication of diabetes when not under good control.

Periodontitis is a progressive condition that can lead to tooth loss when treatment isn’t arranged and successful. It begins with a bacterial infection in the gums surrounding the teeth. As the colonies of bacteria grow, pockets between gums and teeth grow and deepen, and the gums recede back as tissue is destroyed. Eventually, the underlying bone is eroded away as well.

Diabetes is a condition in which there is too much sugar or glucose in the blood. Type II diabetics cannot regulate insulin levels, meaning that excess sugar stays in the blood. Type I diabetics produce no insulin at all. Both are serious conditions that lead to heart disease, stroke and related complications.

Why There Is A Connection

The relationship between periodontitis and diabetes exists, according to experts, because both conditions get worse if either is improperly controlled.

Here are some ways in which the two conditions are linked:

Blood sugar increase. Moderate and severe cases of gum disease raise blood sugar levels, making the body function for longer periods of time with high blood sugar. This explains why diabetics with gum disease often have more trouble controlling their blood sugar than other diabetics. Extra sugar in the mouth also provides food for bacteria, and this makes the periodontitis worse.

Thickening of blood vessels. A major cause for concern, the thickening of blood vessels interferes with their normal, vital function of delivering nutrients and removing waste from tissue. When a patient is diabetic, the blood vessels are too thick for this important exchange to happen. That means harmful waste stays in the mouth, weakens the resistance of gum tissue and can contribute to gum disease and infection.

Smoking. Using tobacco does a great deal of harm to the mouth. In addition to slowing the healing process, it dramatically increases the chances of gum disease. In the case of diabetics who smoke, the risk of problems is exponentially greater. Diabetic smokers over the age of 45, in fact, are more than 20 times as likely to develop gum disease.

Bad oral hygiene. Diabetics must maintain an exceptionally high level of oral health with daily brushing and flossing. When that doesn’t happen, harmful bacteria in the mouth can use the excess sugar between teeth to colonize freely below the gum line. This makes things worse than for people who don’t have diabetes.

Diagnosis and Treatment

People with diabetes must see a dentist twice a year or even more frequently for cleanings and checkups. Studies have proven that simple, non-surgical interventions by a periodontist or dentist can lower the hemoglobin molecule blood test or HbA1c count by up to 20 percent over a six-month period.

A dentist can use your medical history, your family medical history, x-rays and other exams and tests to determine risk factors for gum disease and determine the condition of your teeth and the jawbone beneath. When necessary, a dentist can work with other doctors to make sure that the diabetic condition and the gum disease are being managed adequately.

Non-surgical interventions by a dentist or hygienist include the deep scaling procedure during which tartar is removed from teeth both above and below the gum line and associated root planing where the tooth root is smoothed to help gums heal to teeth. Antibiotics may be applied to gum pockets in some cases to aid in healing.

Your dentist will recommend to you the best home care and oral maintenance actions to keep your mouth in good order and also recommend or prescribe mouthwashes that can deter the colonization of bacteria and help improve overall oral health.

For answers to your questions related to diabetes and its link to gum disease, call (619) 640-5100 for a free consultation with Dr. Paige Woods, DDS.