woman checking blood sugar

Diabetes and Gum Disease

Team Gum Disease, Oral Health

There is a great deal of scientific research that demonstrates a link between oral health and overall health. When there is disease in the mouth, it’s only natural that it would impact your body; disease in the body can also affect your teeth and gums. One example of this connection is the relationship between diabetes and gum disease.

How Diabetes Can Cause Gum Disease

If you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk of getting gum disease. Here’s why.

Diabetes leads to higher glucose levels in the blood and saliva. Bacteria feed on the increased glucose, or sugar, in the saliva and multiplies in these conditions. This bacteria combines with food particles to create plaque, which coats the surfaces of your teeth. Plaque that isn’t removed by flossing and brushing will harden into tartar, which must be removed by a hygienist during a dental cleaning.

If tartar isn’t removed in a timely manner, it can cause gingivitis, or inflammation in the gums. Gingivitis then develops into gum disease, which causes gums to bleed easily, recede, and pull away from the roots of the teeth, forming pockets where bacteria collects and attacks the structures that provide support for the teeth. When advanced gum disease is not treated, teeth will begin to become loose, shift, and even fall out.

Another factor at play is that high glucose levels impact your body’s ability to heal from infection, making it harder to fight off gum disease. This means that diabetes makes it easier for patients to get gum disease because it creates the conditions in which bacteria thrive, and it also affects the body’s immune response to the infection. 

Gum Disease and Blood Glucose Levels

The relationship between diabetes and gum disease goes two ways, though. Not only do high glucose levels cause gum disease; gum disease can raise glucose levels and worsen diabetes, creating a cycle of infection and illness.

Gum disease causes inflammation throughout the body, a condition that raises glucose levels. Even patients who do not have diabetes have higher blood glucose levels if they have gum disease, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

The good news is that the diabetes and gum disease cycle can be broken with a simple, non-surgical treatment called scaling and root planing. Research has shown that treating gum disease with scaling and root planing causes blood glucose levels to quickly drop. In fact, the drop is so dramatic, it’s nearly equivalent to that of taking prescription medication to control your blood sugar. Once your gum disease is under control, a periodontal maintenance program will keep your mouth healthy in the long-term.

Learn More About Gum Disease and Diabetes

If you have diabetes and you’re concerned about the impact of high glucose levels on your teeth and gums, regular dental cleanings and comprehensive oral exams are one of the best ways to take control of your oral health. Contact us today at 508-620-6622 to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists.