While there are many complications of diabetes, there is one that is not often discussed – gum disease. Many individuals don’t know that diabetes can wreak havoc on your teeth and gums and even cause tooth loss.
A Growing Healthcare Crisis
Diabetes is a modern day, global epidemic that affects close to 10 percent of the United States population. In fact, over 29 million Americans currently live with diabetes. Many more are undiagnosed and do not know they have the disease. As the general population skews heavier and as baby-boomers get older, the total number of diabetics is certain to rise. It’s also important to note that 86 million people are pre-diabetic with nine out of 10 of those people unaware of their condition. The statistics are staggering, and it’s a fact, that many of these individuals are struggling with significant gum problems and tooth loss as a result of diabetes.
How Diabetes Impacts Oral Health
After eating, the body naturally processes food and turns it into blood sugar or glucose to be used as energy. Diabetes hinders the body’s capacity to process glucose. Insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas, enables the body to utilize blood sugar and regulate the build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. In Type 1 diabetes, the body is unable to produce enough insulin, and in Type II, the body itself simply ceases to respond to insulin. Both conditions give rise to excess sugar in the bloodstream which can cause many health conditions, including inflamed gums, periodontal disease and even tooth loss.
Is It Diabetes-Related Gum Disease?
One of the lesser known complications associated with diabetes is the degenerative effect that increased glucose has on the mouth and gums. Glucose in the bloodstream can produce higher levels of sugar in the saliva. When this is combined with natural bacteria in the mouth, tooth decay and gum inflammation can increase. The majority of diabetics have some evidence of periodontal disease. Warning signs of a problem include:
- Dry mouth
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Infections in the mouth
- Slow healing of wounds in the mouth
What You Can Do
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, there are strategies you can take to reduce your risk of developing periodontal (gum disease). This includes using a gentle toothbrush that protects the teeth at least two to three times per day, flossing and obtaining regular dental checkups. As well, it’s essential to keep blood sugar in check by taking necessary medications, eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient exercise. While gum disease is very prevalent in those with diabetes, it is preventable. Keeping your gums healthy also helps reduce inflammation stress on your body. Less inflammation will also help reduce blood sugar levels.