As a chronic illness that can cause so many health problems, diabetes affects your whole body. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels are especially dangerous. Among the many side effects and complications possible from diabetes is gum disease. How is diabetes related to gum disease and why are people with diabetes more likely to develop gum disease?
A normal functioning pancreas produces insulin in response to changes in the levels of sugar in your blood. Insulin regulates the blood sugar levels. In patients who have diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range. In some people, insulin is produced but it does not regulate blood sugar effectively.
Up to one-quarter of people with diabetes are unaware of their condition. For them, gum disease may be the first indication that there is a problem. Dentists know that gum disease occurs more often in people with diabetes than those in the general population. With all else being equal, your dentist may recommend blood work to test your blood sugar levels. Dentists are often the first health providers to discover conditions that do not seem related to your teeth at first glance.
People with diabetes are susceptible to infection. This may be caused by the thickening of blood vessels that carry away impurities in the blood and bring oxygen and nutrients to cells. Thicker walls mean that less blood volume can get through to perform these vital functions. Infected gum tissue is more likely to develop into gum disease in people with this condition.
In addition, high glucose levels in the blood mean more sugar in saliva. This sugar feeds the bacteria that live naturally in the mouth and can cause an infection. If you have red and swollen gums that bleed when you brush or floss, it could be a sign of gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease. If the condition is untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and risk of spreading infection.
Gum disease can cause diabetes, too!
Surprisingly, there is another relationship between diabetes and gum disease. Studies show that people with gum disease are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. As with any chronic infection, gum disease can cause bacteria to filter into the bloodstream and trigger an immune response. The body’s reaction to the threat of infection can be detrimental to several bodily systems, and one effect is an increase in blood sugar. On a positive note, thorough treatment for gum disease, including deep cleaning and antibiotics, can actually lower blood sugar levels.
There is more good news about diabetes and gum disease – people with controlled diabetes are no more likely to develop gum disease than anyone else. Part of staying healthy and managing serious health conditions means not ignoring your oral health. Getting a professional cleaning for your teeth and an exam by your dentist helps maintain a healthy smile and may even prevent serious conditions like diabetes and infections. If you live in the Las Vegas area, trust the team at Dedicated Dental to care for your oral health. Since 2006 they have treated patients ages 4 and up at their office in Henderson, Nevada. For an appointment, call (702) 566-5509 to speak with one of our friendly office staff today!