Research has emerged that suggests that the relationship between gum disease and diabetes goes both ways – gum disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar, and people who have uncontrolled blood sugar levels may be more prone to having periodontal disease.
People with diabetes are more likely to have gum (periodontal) disease than people without diabetes, probably because diabetics are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes. Those people who do not have their diabetes (or blood sugar level) under control are especially at risk.
How does diabetes affect gum health?
Thickening of blood vessels is a complication of diabetes that may increase the risk for gum disease. Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nourishment to body tissues, including the mouth, and carry away the tissues' waste products. Diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken, which slows the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes. This can weaken gum and bone tissue’s resistance to infection.
Many kinds of bacteria (germs) thrive on sugars, including glucose -- the sugar linked to diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can also cause levels of glucose to rise in the saliva. High glucose levels in mouth fluids may help germs grow and set the stage for gum disease.
How Does Gum Disease Affect Diabetes?
The relationship between diabetes and gum disease becomes even more powerful when you look at the potential effect of an infection on blood glucose levels. Having a serious infection like gum disease may actually contribute to rising blood sugar levels. Inflammation in the gums escapes into the bloodstream and upsets the body’s defense system which in turn affects blood sugar control. In other words, infection causes high blood sugar levels and high blood sugar levels decrease the ability of the immune system to fight infection.
While diabetes and gum disease may each make the other more difficult to control, there is still a lot that you can do to prevent and manage both conditions.
What you can do keep your gums as healthy as possible:
- Work to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Regular exercise, eating a nutritious diet including fresh veggies and whole grains will nourish your teeth and gums and to help control blood sugar levels, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits can help to manage diabetes.
- Brush your teeth gently twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and a fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between your teeth with floss or another interdental cleaner daily.
- Irrigate with the Hydro Floss twice daily to clean under the gums where brushing and flossing cannot reach.
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. Make sure you have your gums checked; the dentist or dental hygienist should measure the space between the teeth and the gums to look for gum disease. Talk to your dentist or hygienist about your health and any medications that you may be taking.