Diabetes and Periodontal Disease – What’s the Connection?

Did you know that diabetes and periodontal disease are connected? Periodontal diseases are infections of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. Like other complications, diabetes and periodontal disease is linked to blood sugar control.

People with poor control get gum disease more often and more severely, and they lose more teeth than do people with good control.

Another factor that causes diabetics to be more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes is that diabetics are more susceptible to infections.

Research has emerged that suggests that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes goes both ways – periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.

Factors that link diabetes to gum disease include:

  • Diabetes slows down circulation, which can make the gum tissues more vulnerable to infections
  • Diabetes decreases the body’s resistance to disease, which raises the likelihood of the gums becoming infected
  • Elevated glucose levels in saliva promotes growth of bacteria that cause gum disease
  • People with diabetes who smoke are far more likely to develop gum disease than people who smoke and do not have diabetes
  • Poor oral hygiene is a major factor in gum disease for everyone, but it is even more so for a person with diabetes

University of Michigan assistant professor of dentistry, George Taylor, says that evidence about the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease comes from both epidemiological and clinical studies.

Taylor compared blood sugar control in two groups of diabetics, one with mild periodontal disease or none at all, and one with severe periodontitis.

“The fascinating finding was that people with more severe periodontal disease were six times more likely to have poor blood sugar control at follow-up than those who had less severe periodontal disease,” said Taylor.

How Do I Know if I Have Periodontal Disease?

The first signs of gum disease are red, sore and bleeding gums. You may have tooth and gum damage from diabetes if you have one or more of these problems:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Gums pulling away from your teeth, making them appear long
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Bad breath
  • A bite that feels different
  • Dentures that do not fit well

Periodontal disease and Diabetes can affect the entire body. No matter how well controlled you think your diabetes is, it’s important to keep your dentist informed about your condition.

Successfully treating periodontal disease can improve diabetic control since the disease, like any other type of infection, causes blood sugar levels to rise. If your periodontal infection is treated successfully, your need for insulin may decrease and diabetic control likely will be easier.