Connection between diabetes and gum disease

As scientists and researchers discover more about the connection between oral health and overall vitality, we would like to provide our patients insight into how diabetes and gum disease are connected. Dr. James Fondriest strives to continually educate his patients, especially patients with certain conditions and special needs. Below are some commonly asked questions about diabetes and gum problems posted by our staff at Lake Forest Dental Arts.

Does diabetes cause gum disease?

Diabetics have weakened immune systems. This is because uncontrolled blood sugar levels affect white blood cells. White blood cells are the body’s defense against infection and disease. A weakened immune system means that it takes longer for diabetics to heal from wounds or infections. Unhealthy blood glucose levels also increase acidity and sugar levels in the mouth. This environment is especially unhealthy for tooth enamel, making diabetics even more vulnerable to tooth decay and cavities. In fact, diabetics are 20% more likely to lose teeth in adulthood than patients who don’t have diabetes. Diabetic patients also produce less saliva and suffer from dry mouth. Saliva helps your mouth dilute harmful particles and keep teeth clean in between times of brushing.

Are people with diabetes more likely to suffer from gum disease?

Yes, there is quite a bit of evidence that supports an increased incidence of gum disease in diabetics, especially periodontitis. Lack of saliva creates an environment for plaque and tartar buildup. If buildup isn’t removed by flossing and professional cleanings, it can infect and inflame the gum line. Advanced gum disease can erode the soft tissues of the mouth, teeth, and facial bones.

Gum disease is a contributor to diabetes

Gum disease makes blood sugar levels rise. Bacteria associated with infected gums can leak into your bloodstream when you eat or form flossing and tooth brushing. This starts a reaction from your body’s defense system, which, in turn, produces some powerful molecules that have harmful effects all over your body. This includes making your blood sugar levels harder to control.

If I treat my gum disease, will it help to control my diabetes?

Yes, treatment of gum disease has been shown to lower high blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The benefit is about the same as you might find if you added another drug to your usual diabetes medicine.

Periodontal Disease Symptoms

You also need to know the warning signs of advancing periodontal problems because it afflicts about 80% of Americans and is linked to both the development of diabetes and diabetes complications. Gum disease is a chronic infection of the gums that requires professional treatment by a dental hygienist, general dentist, or periodontist.

  • Red swollen gums
  • Tender and sensitive teeth and gums
  • Bleeding when brushing teeth
  • Gum recession at the base of teeth
  • Significant plaque and tartar buildup
  • Tooth loss

Diabetes symptoms

If you experience these symptoms, visit your personal physician for a blood glucose test.

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue and irritability
  • Frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections

If you have diabetes, be sure to let your dentist and hygienist know. For more information about diabetes, visit diabetes symptoms.

If I have diabetes or gum disease, what should I do?

Most importantly, diabetics should control their blood glucose with a healthy diet, an active lifestyle, and regular treatment recommended by their doctor. In addition, diabetics should brush their teeth thoroughly at least twice a day, floss daily, and use an antiseptic mouth rinse. Diabetics should visit the dentist for routine checkups and cleanings at least every six months. Dr. Fondriest would like to encourage his diabetic patients to openly discuss their health with him and communicate any new symptoms or changes in oral health with our caring staff.

To schedule a dental care appointment with Dr. Fondriest, or to ask questions about diabetes and gum disease, contact us at 847-234-0517. Our dental office in Lake Forest, Illinois serves the North Shore Chicago area.