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Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

It is estimated that 20 million people have diabetes, but only two-thirds of these individuals are diagnosed. Studies have shown that diabetics are more susceptible to the development of oral infections and periodontal (gum) disease than those who don’t have diabetes. This relationship causes great concern because serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood sugar control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. That’s why it’s important for people with diabetes to visit a dentist on a regular basis and to keep the dentist up to date on the status of the diabetic’s oral and overall health.

Because diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, the gums are at risk for gingivitis, a reversible form of gum disease usually caused by the presence of bacteria. These bacteria produce toxins that create a sticky film that accumulates on teeth, both above and below the gum line, leading to inflammation. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, an irreversible destruction of the tissues that surround and support the teeth.

In order to stay healthy, brush your teeth with a toothpaste containing fluoride and rinse with mouthwash at least two times a day. People with diabetes who receive good dental care and have good insulin control typically have a better chance of avoiding gum disease. To improve their quality of life and their oral health, people with diabetes need to pay close attention to diet and exercise. People with diabetes should be sure that both their medical and dental care providers are aware of their medical history and periodontal status. To keep teeth and gums strong, those with diabetes should be aware of their blood sugar levels in addition to having their triglycerides and cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis.

If your blood sugar is not under control, talk with both your dentist and physician about receiving elective dental care. Some types of dental procedures and appointment length are dependent on the level of diabetic control. Also, schedule morning appointments because blood glucose levels tend to be more stable at this time of day. If you have a scheduled appointment, eat and take your medication as directed. See your dentist on a regular basis; keep him or her informed of your health status.