Gum disease, or periodontal disease, isn’t just about the teeth and gums. In many ways, the health of your gums and teeth reflects the health of your entire body. If you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, you might have an increased risk of developing gum disease. On the other hand, having gum disease can increase your risk for diabetic complications.
If you have diabetes, here’s what you need to know about gum disease and oral care that can help you prevent problems and protect the rest of your body.
What is Diabetes?
More than 29 million people in the US have diabetes, according to the American Dental Association, and nearly 2 million new cases are diagnosed annually. When a person is diabetic, their body has trouble processing sugar. In some cases, it is because the body is unable to produce enough insulin (Type 1). In other instances, the body can no longer respond to insulin (Type 2). Both types of diabetes can lead to high levels of sugar in the blood.
Elevated blood sugar levels can cause trouble throughout the body, such as in the kidneys, eyes, and heart. Controlling diabetes can help to lower a person’s risk for complications. Diabetics who have their condition under control have the same risk of gum disease as people without diabetes.
How Diabetes Can Increase Your Risk for Gum Disease
How does diabetes put you at an increased risk for gum disease? In a few ways. For one thing, uncontrolled blood sugars can interfere with your mouth’s production of saliva. That can lead to dry mouth, which can put you at an increased risk of infection.
Even without experiencing a drop in saliva production or dry mouth, an elevated blood sugar level can increase the number of harmful bacteria in your mouth. Bacteria love sugar and an increased amount of sugar in your system gives them more to feed on.
Having diabetes can also interfere with your blood flow and circulation, as the condition can cause the blood vessels to thicken, reducing circulation. A drop in circulation can prevent oxygen and necessary nutrients from reaching your gum tissues, increasing the risk for inflammation and irritation.
It’s not only that diabetes can increase your risk of gum disease. Having gum disease can also increase your risk of diabetic problems. For example, periodontal disease can make it more challenging for a diabetic person to control their blood sugar levels.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Mouth
If you have diabetes, one of the first steps you should take to protect the health of your gums and teeth is to get your diabetes under control. Your doctor might prescribe medications to help lower or manage blood sugar levels. Changing your diet and adding exercise to your usual routine can also help you to manage blood sugar levels.
Next, you’ll want to focus on protecting your teeth and gums. Brushing your teeth twice a day will remove food debris, bacteria, and plaque from the teeth and gums. Flossing will help to get rid of debris and bacteria between the teeth. If you are already showing signs of gingivitis or a more advanced form of gum disease, your dentist can perform a deep cleaning on the teeth to help reverse the condition or improve the health of your gums.
It’s also a good idea to see a dentist or periodontist for regular check-ups to make sure your teeth and gums are doing well. Every six months might be enough, but you may also need to see your dentist more frequently if they think you are at an elevated risk of gum disease.
If you are diabetic in the Miami area and want to learn more about the connection between diabetes and gum disease, a periodontist can help you better understand your risk and your treatment options. Dr. John Paul Gallardo offers patients a number of different traditional and cutting-edge treatments for gum disease and will work with you to develop a treatment plan that works for you. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.