Diabetes and Gum Disease: What You Should Know

Time and time again, research has shown how oral health and overall health are closely linked. We know that when there is disease in the mouth, it can impact your body—and that the reverse is true as well. One example of this in action is the connection between diabetes and gum disease.

How Diabetes Sets the Stage for Gum Disease

Patients who have diabetes are at a higher risk for getting gum disease. This is true for two reasons.

First, diabetes causes high glucose levels in the blood and also saliva. This creates the perfect conditions for bacteria to flourish in the mouth, since bacteria feeds on sugar. Bacteria and food debris create plaque, which coats the surfaces of the teeth. If plaque isn’t removed during brushing and flossing, it hardens into a substance called tartar, which can only be removed with a professional dental cleaning.

Tartar leads to the development of gingivitis, a precursor to gum disease that causes inflammation in the gums. If this, too, is not treated, then gingivitis progresses into gum disease, causing your gums to bleed, recede, and pull away from the roots of your teeth, forming periodontal pockets where infection attacks the structures that support your teeth. Eventually, teeth may begin to shift, become loose, and fall out.

The other reason diabetes leads to gum disease is because high glucose levels impede the body’s natural ability to heal from infection. Gum disease is an infection and patients with diabetes don’t have the same ability to fight the infection as patients who have normal glucose levels. This means a patient with diabetes has a higher chance of getting gum infection. Because patients with diabetes have the right oral conditions for bacteria to thrive and reduced ability to fight infection, it creates the ideal environment for gum disease to take hold.

The Effects of Gum Disease on Blood Glucose

The links between gum disease and diabetes don’t stop there. As discussed above, diabetes can set the stage for gum disease, but gum disease can also worsen diabetes. The result is an endless cycle of infection and illness.

Diabetes itself results in higher glucose levels, but gum disease also raises glucose levels because of the inflammation it causes. Even people who don’t have diabetes experience higher glucose levels when they have gum disease, putting them at an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes. 

The diabetes and gum disease connection can be broken with a simple, non-invasive treatment called scaling and root planing or gum treatment. In fact, research has shown that treating gum disease causes blood glucose levels to quickly drop—and the drop is so dramatic, it’s almost equivalent to that of taking medication to control your blood sugar. Scaling and root planing is then followed by a periodontal maintenance program to ensure your long-term oral health.

Learn More About Gum Disease and Diabetes

If you have diabetes and you’re concerned about the impact of high glucose levels on your long-term dental and periodontal health, we’re happy to discuss your risk factors. Contact us today at 862-247-8030 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Liao.