Research has come forth that suggests that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes goes both ways. Gum problems can make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Those who have diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than those who do not which makes it vital for diabetics to maintain their blood sugar and seek treatment.
Diabetes Increases Chances of Periodontal Disease
Diabetics, as a result of their increased susceptibility to infection, are at greater risk of developing periodontal disease than those without diabetes. Those who do not have their diabetes under control are at an even greater risk. Uncontrolled diabetes impairs white blood cells, which are the body’s main defense against bacterial infection that can occur in the mouth. Allowing diabetes to be left uncontrolled greatly increases a diabetic’s risk of moderate to severe gum disease. Those who have diabetes will often experience dry mouth, gum inflammation, and poor healing in the oral tissues. All of these complications of diabetes can put a patient at greater risk for periodontal disease, but the inflammation of the gums is by far the most threatening. Besides impairing white blood cells, diabetes also causes blood vessels to thicken. Thickened blood vessels slow the flow of nutrients and waste products from the tissues of the mouth. This inflammation greatly reduces the body’s ability to fight infections, such as the bacterial infection that causes periodontitis or gum disease.
Additionally, the damage that periodontal disease can do is far greater in a diabetic patient than one without diabetes because healing in diabetics may be impaired, allowing the periodontal disease to cause far more destruction at a faster rate.
Diabetes and Periodontal Disease: A Two-Way Street
Not only does diabetes affect periodontal disease, but it has been shown to affect a patient’s diabetes. The relationship is a two-way street. Periodontal disease may make it more difficult for patients with diabetes to control their blood sugar.
Periodontal disease has been shown to increase blood sugar which contributes to increased periods of time when the body functions with high blood sugar. Bacterial infections, like periodontal disease, can affect the patient’s metabolism making it far more complicated to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Because gum disease is a chronic infection, it has a negative impact on the diabetic’s ability to maintain control of the metabolic status. All of these effects can increase the risk for some of the complications of diabetes: glaucoma, neuropathy, and high blood pressure.
Several studies have found that treating periodontal disease helps diabetics control their blood sugars. One such study of 113 Pima Indians, published in the Journal of Periodontology (1997), found that when the Indians’ periodontal infections were treated, the management of their diabetes markedly improved.
Treatment of Periodontal Disease in the Diabetic
If you have diabetes, schedule an appointment today. Treatment options for periodontal disease vary and can help you maintain and control your diabetic status. If you are diabetic, it is crucial for you to have healthy gums. Healthy gums will make it easier for you to control your blood sugar levels ultimately saving you time, effort, and money!
Dr. Lara Tull Ryan, located in Overland Park, KS, is a Periodontist who services patients from Shawnee, KS, Leawood, KS, and Lenexa, KS. We are looking forward to welcoming you to our office and encourage you to schedule your appointment today!