Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

Periodontal disease, commonly known as periodontitis or gum disease, is a progressive condition caused by bacterial infection in the gingival tissue surrounding the teeth. When dealt with promptly, this condition is easily treated. Otherwise, the bacteria are left to colonize, deepening the gum pockets, receding the gums around the teeth, and destroying gum and bone tissue.

Periodontal disease is also known as the sixth complication of diabetes. Type II diabetics are unable to regulate insulin in the body which causes excess glucose in the blood. Type I diabetics cannot produce insulin at all. It is a serious condition that can lead to stroke and heart disease, and when paired with periodontal disease, can lead to even more health complications.

How are periodontal disease and diabetes connected?

Studies show that the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease can worsen both conditions if not properly controlled and treated.

Diabetes and periodontal disease are linked in the following ways:

  • Blood vessel thickening – Blood vessels perform a vital function in the body by removing waste products and delivering nutrients. Diabetics suffer from thick blood vessels that prevent these functions from properly occurring. The body will struggle to remove harmful waste from the oral cavity, weakening the gum tissue and leading to infection and gum disease.

  • Increased blood sugar – The main concern of diabetics is controlling their blood sugar, and this becomes increasingly harder with periodontal disease. Diabetics already have high sugar levels in the mouth which provide food for bacteria and can easily lead to periodontal disease. In addition, moderate to severe periodontal disease raises body sugar levels, increasing the time the body must function with high blood sugar.

  • Poor oral hygiene  – Excess sugar in the mouths of diabetics means that having a proper oral care routine is essential. Without daily brushing and flossing, harmful oral bacteria will multiply and populate the gums, teeth, and below the gum line. This leads to periodontal disease and exacerbates the metabolic problems diabetics experience.

  • Smoking – Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of oral decay. Tobacco increases the chance of developing periodontal disease and slows healing processes in the mouth. Diabetic smokers aged 45 and older are twenty times more likely than the average person to develop periodontal disease.

How is periodontal disease in diabetics treated?

Periodontal disease is an extremely common and serious oral health condition for those suffering from diabetes. This means it is imperative for diabetics to attend biannual dental checkups and receive professional cleanings. Simple, non-surgical preventative treatments are proven to lower the HbA1c (hemoglobin molecule blood test) count by as much as 20% in a six-month period.

During a dental checkup at Brooklyn Dentist, the dentist will talk to the patient about their individual and family medical history. They may work alongside other doctors to ensure that both the patient’s oral health and diabetes are being efficiently and effectively managed. They will then perform a thorough examination and use dental X-rays to determine the condition of the patient’s gums, teeth, and jawbone, as well as the underlying causes and risk factors of their condition.

The dentist may apply antibiotics to the gum pockets to promote healing. They may also perform a non-surgical deep scaling procedure in which calculus (tartar) is removed from the tooth above and below the gumline. Another procedure they may perform is root planning, where the root of the tooth is smoothed down to rid it of remaining bacteria.

During every visit, the dentist will talk to the patient about the best at-home oral care routine for them and may prescribe mouthwashes or other substances that can be used to deter bacteria colonization in the mouth.

If you have questions or concerns about diabetes or periodontal disease, please contact our dental surgeon.


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