Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

  • Apr 25 2018

What is the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. That is nearly 10 percent of the total population. Close to a quarter of those 30 million have yet to be officially diagnosed. Diabetes, which can cause severe damage throughout the body if uncontrolled, including blindness and limb amputation, is the result of the pancreas not being able to produce or maintain enough insulin, leading to a build-up of sugar in the bloodstream.

While the exact cause of why someone develops diabetes is unknown, the most common form, type 2, is likely to be the result of genetics, race, lifestyle choices or other existing health concerns. It has been common knowledge that diabetics have more dental issues, especially periodontal (gum) disease, than the general population. That only makes sense when we consider the often high level of sugar in the body. What researchers are discovering is that the reverse may also be true; that periodontal disease can raise blood sugar levels and may actually be a contributing cause for the development of diabetes.

Periodontal disease is an infection in the gums, specifically the tissues that provide the foundation for the teeth and hold them in place. It is considerably more common than most people realize, and the older you get, the greater the odds of developing it. Roughly half of all adults over age 30 have some degree of infection, and, if you reach retirement age, that jumps to more than 70%. Typically, the cause is inadequate hygiene habits leading to a buildup of plaque and tartar below the gum level, providing the perfect environment for bacteria to result in infection.

Which Came First?

No one seems to have come up with an answer that was satisfactory to everyone about that old “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. Fortunately, no one really cared: it was just fun to debate. Neither diabetes or periodontal disease are fun. Whether elevated sugar levels due to uncontrolled diabetes results in periodontal disease or the infection in the gums increases your risk of developing diabetes, the real question is how do we avoid both of these serious conditions.

Maintaining a healthy body weight and getting plenty of exercise are ways to lower the likelihood of diabetes when it comes to lifestyle risks. With genetics, race and other health factors, there isn’t always something that you can do. That said, diabetics who follow their doctor’s recommendations and control blood sugar levels can lead normal lives and avoid most, if not all, of the side effects, including increased risk of periodontal disease.

To avoid developing periodontal disease, it is important to consistently practice good dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing after meals and before bed is essential. Even then, however, it is not always possible to remove all of the plaque on your own. This is another reason that regular cleanings by your hygienist and annual exams by your dentist are so important. The really good news is that treatment of periodontal disease can have the effect of lowering blood sugar levels; a win all the way around.

If you believe you may have an infection or have questions about any of our services, whether dentistry or aesthetics, Forest Hills Dentistry is dedicated to delivering the highest quality services possible. We offer the latest and most current information and services to our patients with a new state-of-the-art facility in Forest Hills, Queens. Patient comfort, individualized care and complete satisfaction are our priority.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, you are invited to use our online form by clicking here.

Categories: Periodontics