Good oral hygiene and regular dental exams are always important, but if you have diabetes, they are even more critical. That’s because taking care of your teeth and gums is part of managing your condition. When you have diabetes, your risk of periodontal disease is higher; periodontal disease, in turn, can exacerbate your diabetes, creating a vicious circle.
Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between diabetes and gum disease and what you can do to help manage both.
Diabetes Increases Gum Disease Risk
If you have diabetes, you’re probably aware of the fact that when your blood glucose levels are high, your body has a more difficult time fighting infection. What you may not know is that periodontal disease is an infection that causes inflammation and damage to the gums. Not only does having diabetes leave you at higher risk of infection, the high glucose in your blood also gives bacteria sugar to feed on in your mouth. Combined, these two factors create the perfect environment for gum disease.
Gum Disease Worsens Diabetes
When periodontal disease has taken hold, it can begin to cause serious complications for patients with diabetes. Even in people without diabetes, blood sugar levels naturally rise when battling infection, so fighting off the infection of periodontal disease can worsen diabetes. It’s also believed that gum disease could potentially lead to type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes in pregnant patients.
Breaking the Cycle of Diabetes and Gum Disease
You can see now how diabetes can worsen gum disease and gum disease can worsen diabetes. It might seem impossible to break the cycle, but the good news is that gum disease is highly treatable and often only requires a simple, minimally invasive procedure called scaling and root planing to reverse. In fact, when patients with gum disease receive treatment for it, their blood glucose levels respond almost immediately.
If you have diabetes, the American Dental Association recommends the following to help keep your mouth healthy:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, gentle movements, and fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth. Always brush for two minutes, twice a day.
- Floss twice a day, all the way down to the gum line.
- See your dentist twice a year for dental exams and cleanings, or more often if recommended by your dentist or physician.
- When you go to the dentist, make sure they’re aware that you have diabetes. Ask them to look for signs of gum disease during your exam.
Gum Disease Treatment
If you are diagnosed with gum disease, you may need a specialized type of cleaning called deep scaling and root planing which removes the bacteria and deposits that cause the infection. During scaling and root planing, we’ll first numb your mouth to make sure you’re comfortable throughout the procedure. Scaling gives your teeth a deep clean, removing plaque and tartar from below the gum line where it forms in pockets between the gums and the roots of teeth. Then, root planing smoothes the roots of your teeth, which helps the gums reattach, eliminating the pockets where plaque and tartar collect.