Diabetes and Your Mouth | the bad news relationship between diabetes and oral health

Diabetes affects so many organs–your eyes, your heart, your kidneys, your nerves.  But did you know that controlling your blood glucose can be vital to preserving the health of your teeth and gums?

And that maintaining good oral health can have a positive effect on your metabolic control?

Diabetes is a major risk factor for periodontal disease. Uncontrolled blood glucose creates a hospitable environment in the mouth for the growth of bacteria.   High blood sugars reduce the body’s ability to fight infection as well as promoting inflammation, which increases glucose attachment to proteins.

This leads to greater loss of gum and bone tissue than for people without diabetes.   In addition, the dry mouth associated with poorly controlled diabetes, combined with the frequent use of simple sugars to treat hypoglycemia, can increase the risk of caries (aka, cavities).

When you have periodontal disease, your gums are filled with bacteria that cause chronic inflammation.   If left untreated, the infection can destroy the connective tissue and bone holding the teeth in place.  In severe cases, people with untreated periodontal disease may lose all of their teeth, necessitating dentures.

And poor dentition can influence a person’s ability to eat a nutritious diet. Lack of teeth or ill-fitting dentures may prompt people to eat a mechanical soft diet, which may be lower in fiber and higher in fat and sugars. Although these types of diets don’t cause diabetes, they can contribute to higher blood glucose levels.

Periodontal Disease Can Make Your Blood Glucose Harder to Control

Untreated periodontal disease can wreak havoc with your blood glucose control.

Chronic inflammation in the gums triggers a whole body immune response that can lead to insulin resistance, which makes it harder to control blood glucose.

In addition, bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and stimulate the production of what are called “acute phase proteins” (these are proteins secreted during the stress response to tissue injury, infection or inflammation). High levels of some of these proteins, for example, fibrinogen and serum amyloid A, can cause damage to the heart and kidneys.

Watch for the Signs of Periodontal Disease

The following are signs of periodontal disease

  • Red, sore, swollen, receding or bleeding gums
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Oral abscesses
  • Bad breath
  • Missing teeth
  • Plaque around the teeth

8 Questions for Spotting Periodontal Disease When You Have Diabetes

Sometimes, though, periodontal disease is silent.   The following questions can help you determine if you are at risk when you have diabetes.

1.  Have you ever had treatment for gum disease, such as scaling and root planing, sometimes called deep cleaning?

2.  Have any of your teeth become loose on its own with an injury?

3.  Have you ever been told by a dental professional that you have lost bone around your teeth?

4.  In the last 3 months, have you noticed a tooth that doesn’t look right?

5.  Are you over 50 years of age?

6.  Overall, how do you rate the health of your teeth and gums?

a.  excellent or good

b.  fair or poor

7.  Aside from brushing your teeth with a toothbrush in the last 7 days, how many times did you use dental floss or any other device to clean between your teeth?

a.  3 or more times

b.  Zero times

8.  Aside from brushing your teeth with a toothbrush in the last 7 days, how many times did you use mouthwash or other dental rinse products used to treat dental disease or dental problems?

a.  3 or more times

b.  Zero times

Count the number of “yes” answers.  Then count the number of “Zero” answers.  If you have a total of three or more “yes” answers or any combination of 3 “yes” and “b” answers, you should call your dentist.

Remember, once periodontal disease has taken hold, it needs to be treated by a dentist.

The best course is prevention

  • Have regular dental checkups every six months
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush twice per day
  • Have your teeth cleaned at least twice a year or more often if needed
  • Report signs of periodontal disease to your dentist right away.
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One Response to Diabetes and Your Mouth | the bad news relationship between diabetes and oral health

  1. Joan says:

    I have heard there are times uncontrollable sugars may be caused by this bacterial infection (p. gingivalis) in the gums, and once treated and, hopefully, prevented, the diabetes is much more manageable.

    A periodontist can diagnoses both, gingivitis and periodontitis, and, if needed, prescribe an antibiotic to eradicate the gingivalis… Worth of investigating.

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