Oral Health and Diabetes

Oral Health and Diabetes

Did you know that gum disease can actually contribute to diabetes and that diabetes can cause gum disease? Recent research has found a definite link between periodontitis, or gum disease, and type 2 diabetes. This link suggests not only that these conditions are related, but that one can be managed to improve the other.

Periodontitis is a form of advanced gum disease that can cause tooth loss. It occurs when bacteria in the mouth are not removed, causing the gums to recede and pockets to form between your teeth which house more bacteria. If not treated, the teeth will start to loosen and eventually be may lost or need to be extracted. Also, the bacteria from periodontitis can circulate through the bloodstream, causing a host of other problems.
One of these problems is that it contributes to type 2 diabetes. Although research is still being done in this area, it has been found that the bacteria involved with periodontitis cause inflammation throughout the entire body. This inflammation directly interferes with the body’s ability to process sugar and can contribute to type 2 diabetes. If the individual already has diabetes, periodontitis will make it more difficult for sugar levels to be regulated since gum infections can cause rises in the blood sugar.

One the other hand, if an individual is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they will need to watch out for periodontitis. Individuals with type 2 diabetes are three to four times more likely to develop periodontal disease. This is especially relevant for those that have trouble managing their sugar levels, since high blood sugar levels can cause blood vessels to thicken making it harder for the body to circulate nutrients and waste products to and from the mouth. This inability to quickly eliminate waste products can negatively affect the body’s ability to fight infections, which lends itself to the development of periodontitis.

In order to help manage both type 2 diabetes and periodontal disease, your dentist and physician will need to work together. A key factor in making this relationship work is your active participation in your oral and overall health. Since it is highly unlikely that your dentist and physician will sit down to discuss your dental and medical needs, it is up to you to make sure that you are providing each with the appropriate information. This means you will need to inform your dentist about your medical condition and you will need to inform your physician of your dental condition.

Your physician will work on approaches aimed at regulating your blood sugar levels, while your dentist will work on keeping your periodontitis under control. Although periodontitis cannot be cured, it can be managed to avoid further damage to the teeth and gums. Once you have been diagnosed with periodontitis, it is important to develop a treatment plan with your dentist and follow this treatment plan, especially if you have type 2 diabetes.

Managing periodontitis usually means daily brushing, flossing, and regular visits to your dentist for a specialized periodontal cleaning. During this cleaning, plaque and tartar containing bacteria are removed from the teeth using special tools. This ensures that bacteria are unable to build up in the mouth and avoids bacteria circulating through the bloodstream.


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