We all know that our oral health plays a significant role in determining our overall health. In recent years, a growing amount of research has found compelling associations that link common oral health problems like tooth decay and gum disease to an increased risk for such chronic health problems at heart disease, dementia, arthritis, and cancer. While researchers continue to explore what connects our oral health to these types of systemic diseases, there’s one connection that’s become pretty clear – the link between gum disease and diabetes.
Both diabetes and gum disease rank as chronic conditions that increase with age. The connection between gum disease and diabetes is thought to go both ways. Researchers believe that what connects these two seemingly separate conditions is the development of inflammation in the body.
Gum disease includes both the minor form of the disease, gingivitis, and the far more serious periodontitis. Roughly 50 percent of adults 30 and over have developed periodontitis, which ranks as the leading cause of permanent tooth loss in adults, and is the type of gum disease most closely associated with diabetes.
The Connection Between Gum Disease and Diabetes
Through years of careful research, the oral health community has developed a number of concrete conclusions when it comes to the association between gum disease and diabetes that include:
- Gum disease increases an individual’s risk of developing diabetes by 20 to 30 percent.
- Patients who don’t control their diabetes are three times more likely to develop gum disease.
- Patients with diabetes typically have poor control over the blood glucose levels, and are more likely to develop more brain, heart, kidney and eye complications, and have a shorter lifespan, if they also have gum disease.
- Gum disease treatments can successfully lower a patient’s blood sugar levels.
Fortunately, patients can spot the early signs of gum disease well in advance of the disease progressing into a more serious problem. Early signs of gingivitis include gums that bleed easily, and that appear red, swollen or inflamed. For periodontitis, the signs for the more aggressive form of gum disease include bigger gaps appearing between a patient’s teeth, and teeth that move or appear to shift. Persistent bad breath is another sign for both forms of gum disease.
Preventing the Development of Gum Disease
Considering the risks associated with the development of gum disease, it’s vital that patients take precautions to prevent the disease from permanently damaging their oral and overall health. Practicing quality oral hygiene is especially important for patients with diabetes.
For the best oral hygiene routine, both the American Dental Association and SEC Dentistry recommend:
- Brush at least twice a day for two minutes at a time. The best times to brush are once in the morning after breakfast and again at night just before bed.
- Floss at least once a day. Flossing works to remove plaque and food debris from areas of your mouth a toothbrush cannot reach – between your teeth and below the gum line.
- Eliminate smoking from your daily habits.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, while also cutting back on the amount of sugar consumed daily.
- Visit your SEC Dentist at least twice a year.
- Work to better control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.
By practicing these preventative oral hygiene habits, you CAN successfully lower your risk for developing complications with diabetes, or from developing diabetes at all. As further research continues to explore the connection between our oral and overall health, it has become clear that protecting the health of our teeth and gums is vital to ensuring we enjoy improved health overall.
If you have any questions about the connection between gum disease and diabetes, make sure to ask your Dentist during your next visit at SEC.