In previous blogs, we lightly touched on the link between diabetes and gum (periodontal) disease. Today, let’s dive in deeper to get down to the bottom on how diabetes and gum disease are related. The link between diabetes and gum disease is somewhat of a “what came first: the chicken or the egg?” situation.
The mouth is a cesspool of bacteria — some of them good, some of them bad. The bad bacteria are constantly lurking in your mouth and waiting for a moment of vulnerability to attack and create an infection. By “moment of vulnerability,” we mean a time when your immune system is weak.
How Gum Disease Feeds Off Diabetes
When you suffer from uncontrolled diabetes, your blood sugar levels are constantly wavering between highs and lows. High blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia, sets off an inflammatory response in your body, which is associated with all of the complications that arise in diabetics.
When your body is in a chronic state of inflammation, it doesn’t have the proper immune function to ward off bad bacteria. Your inflamed blood vessels don’t function properly to bring nutrients to your gums and filter bad bacteria away from the gums. Not to mention, bacteria thrive on sugar. With that being said, high blood sugar in diabetics is like an all you can eat buffet for bacteria.
In the past, it was believed that infections in the mouth didn’t affect other parts of the body and that gum disease only harmed the mouth and teeth. However, research has put this idea to rest. Now, we’re aware that diseases in the mouth can impact your body on a holistic level and cause other complications, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Severe gum disease (periodontal disease) actually raises blood sugar levels. In turn, high blood sugar levels weaken white blood cells, making it even more difficult to fight off bacteria in the mouth. The inability to regulate bacteria and sugar in the mouth sets the stage for chronic gum disease, which can develop into periodontal disease.
There are many studies that describe the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease. Luckily, these studies help with prevention of gum disease in diabetics. This way, we can stop gum disease before it becomes irreversible.
How a Periodontist Can Help
A periodontist is a specialty dentist, who prevents, diagnoses, and treats periodontal disease. If you already have a predisposition for periodontal disease with diabetes or other factors, then seeing a periodontist could save your gums.
If you’re already suffering from gingivitis or a minor form of gum disease, then your periodontist will take the appropriate measures to repair your gums. In diabetic cases, a periodontist will take a complex assessment of your medical history and use this knowledge to ensure your gums remain in good health.
If you’re suffering from gum disease, a periodontist will ensure that your dental check-ups are as effective as possible. They will take more preventative measures than your usual dental deep cleaning to ensure that your gums are free of all plaque build-up.
Due to the cyclical nature of high blood sugar and periodontal disease, a periodontist will help you get your diabetes under control. While good dental care can help you take back the reigns to your health, a large part of regulating your diabetes will occur at home.
Any endocrinologist will tell you that the best way to safeguard against diabetic complications is controlling your blood sugar at home. Luckily, a diet that helps with blood sugar regulation is also good for your teeth and gums. Processed junk food that leads to diabetes also feeds the bacteria in your mouth. With proper diet and healthy oral health habits, you can nip your diabetic complications in the bud.