Gum Disease & Diabetes

Periodontal disease is otherwise known as gum disease, it affects the gums and bone surrounding the teeth and eventually leads to tooth loss. Around half the population has it in varying degrees and 10% experience the most severe form, which is most likely to cause tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria which are always present in saliva. The bacteria attach to the tooth surface around the gum margin and form dental plaque. This is the sticky white substance which can be scraped away with a fingernail. If the plaque is not removed effectively every twelve hours it can harden into tartar (calculus). The bacteria will cause irritation (inflammation) in the gums.

Tobacco use, diabetes, stress and our genes all increase the chances of developing gum disease and can make it worse.

Why does Diabetes make periodontal disease worse?

The increase in blood sugar level, which occurs in diabetes, can cause damage to nerves, blood vessels, the heart, the kidneys, the eyes and the feet. In the same way, the gums can also be affected.

Evidence also shows that severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and also in those who do not have diabetes. In other words, periodontal disease and diabetes are linked in both directions.

The inflammation, which occurs in the gums, escapes into the bloodstream and upsets the body’s defence system, which in turn affects blood sugar control.

The treatment of periodontal disease in people with diabetes, who have good control of blood sugar, can be just as successful as in patients who do not have diabetes. Improving blood sugar control can improve the outcome of periodontal treatment in people with diabetes. Also there is evidence that treatment of periodontal disease can result in improvement in blood sugar control in people with poorly controlled diabetes and reduce the risk of the other complications of diabetes.

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