Diabetes and Oral Health



For the nearly 26 million Americans who have diabetes, many may be surprised to learn about an unexpected complication associated with this condition. Research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes, adding serious gum disease to the list of other complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Emerging research also suggests that the relationship between serious gum disease and diabetes is two-way. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. Research suggests that people with diabetes are at higher risk for oral health problems, such as gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) and periodontitis (serious gum disease). People with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious gum disease because their immune systems are compromised. They are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums.

If your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control.

Other oral problems associated to diabetes include: thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities.

To prevent problems, control your blood glucose level. Then, take good care of your teeth and gums, along with regular checkups every six months. To control thrush, a fungal infection, maintain good diabetic control, avoid smoking and if you wear them, remove and clean dentures daily. Good blood glucose control can also help prevent or relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.

Gum disease is a painless condition until it is in the advanced stages. It involves an immune system response to the bacteria that inhabit the mouth and colonize on the teeth especially on the portions of the teeth that are under the gum and not visible to the eye. Our immune system responds to these bacteria with inflammation. The inner wall of this gum starts to break down, which leads to the gum easily bleeding and this is where the bacteria can enter the blood stream. Bacteria originating from the mouth have been found in bacterial plaques that are responsible for strokes and heart attacks. 

Brushing and flossing is a very important part of oral hygiene especially that portion that is under the gum. The plaque accumulates along and under the gum line.  Eventually over time, when bacteria are not removed, the body responds with inflammation on this inner wall of gum. The plaque organizes and becomes attached to the tooth in a way that regular brushing and flossing can’t remove all of the bacteria. This is where the dental hygienist comes in to remove these deposits and create an environment that the patient can maintain with brushing and flossing. The body is now able to repair the inner lining of the gum, bleeding ceases and bacteria are not allowed to enter the body.

Diabetics with compromised healing need to be most diligent with their hygiene and treatment of periodontal disease.  There is no debating the interconnected nature of the mouth to the rest of the body. Health is a journey not a destination.

Dr. Chris Edwards and his staff at Smile Design Center are in the forefront of new research and ideas to help their patients maintain oral health. Smile Design Center is located in Viera, FL. Call Smile Design Center at 321-751-7775 or visit www.SDICFL.com for more information.

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