Link Between Oral Health and Diabetes
Diabetes is a group of chronic inflammatory diseases that affect the body’s ability to process sugar. It is particularly important for diabetics to maintain oral health because they are more prone to oral infections such as periodontal (gum) disease. Conversely, the presence of gum disease can make it harder for diabetics to control blood sugar levels.
Periodontal disease is a chronic ailment associated with elevated levels of systemic (whole-body) inflammation. It may increase a person’s chance of major cardiovascular events (heart attack or stroke) or adverse pregnancy outcomes (low birth weight and pre-term delivery). It’s not surprising that a growing body of evidence suggests the two diseases are related.
Two Diseases With a Lot In Common
Diabetes is a risk factor likely to increase the severity of periodontal disease because diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, making diabetics more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections. Having serious gum disease (periodontitis) is likely to result in worsening blood glucose control in diabetics. It can also increase the risk of diabetic complications. So, what’s the connection?
Both diseases are associated with the process of inflammation and immune response, attempting to fight, repair, and prevent disease from spreading. Prolonged inflammation can lead to serious problems.
What does this mean to you? According to one large study, the risk of dying from a heart attack is twice as likely for diabetics with severe periodontitis – and for kidney disease, your risk is 8.5 times higher. Uncontrolled periodontal disease makes it six times more likely that the ability to control blood sugar levels will worsen over time. Having both can cause a significant deterioration in your overall health.
A Two-Way Street
Diabetes can’t be cured but is manageable. Diabetics who get effective treatment for periodontal disease also receive significant general health benefits. Many exhibit better blood glucose control and improved metabolic functioning.
What kinds of treatments might be needed? Some typical procedures might include: scaling and root planing (deep cleaning that removes plaque bacteria from teeth, above and below the gum line), antibiotic therapy, and oral hygiene self-care instruction.
If you’re at risk for diabetes you can prevent it. While there is a significant genetic component, a major risk factor is being overweight – weight control improves your chance of avoiding it. High levels of triglycerides or low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol are also risk factors. Cut out sugary drinks and eat healthier. Moderate exercise also helps.