Diabetes and Gum Disease: Understanding the Link to Protect Your Health

Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. All food you eat is turned to sugar and used for energy. In Type I diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from your blood to the cells that need it for energy. In Type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. Both cases result in high blood sugar levels. Gum disease is one of the most common diseases seen in humans. In its most severe form, known as periodontitis, the gum tissue and bone that supports the teeth are destroyed over time, leading to loss of teeth.

Although diabetes and gum disease may seem like very different diseases, dentists have known for a long time that people with diabetes are more likely to get gum disease. Also, their gum disease may be worse and harder to treat, compared with people who do not have diabetes. However, if a person’s blood sugar levels are under good control, gum treatment is more likely to be successful.

There is scientific evidence that treatment of gum disease can result in improvement in blood sugar control in people with poorly controlled diabetes, and lower the risk of experiencing the other long-term complications. Keeping the gums healthy is therefore an important part of looking after the overall health of a person with diabetes.

How Can Your Dentist Help You?

Teamwork involving self-care and professional care from your dentist will be beneficial in keeping your healthy smile as well as potentially slowing progression of diabetes. Here are five oral health-related things you can do to for optimal wellness:

  • Control your blood sugar levels. Use your diabetes-related medications as directed, changing to a healthier diet and even exercising more can help. Good blood sugar control will also help your body fight any bacterial or fungal infections in your mouth and help relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • If you wear any type of denture, clean it each day.
  • Make sure to brush twice a day with a soft brush and clean between your teeth daily.
  • See your dentist for regular check-ups.