Quick takeaways you need to know about link between diabetes and gum disease
SUMMARY: Diabetes and gum disease are interconnected. Find out how and what that means for you.
Posted: September 20, 2013
Almost 26 million Americans live with diabetes - that's six percent of the population. Yet many may not be aware how much diabetes and oral health are intertwined. Diabetics are twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-diabetics. That means, for people who carry an epipen on them, it might also be wise to hold a toothbrush on them with as much dedication. Here's a breakdown of diabetes and periodontitis, or gum disease, and how they are tied to one another.
What is diabetes?
To start off, diabetes is metabolic disorder that changes how the body uses glucose, also known as blood sugar, which is your brain's main source of fuel. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps monitor levels of blood sugar. Those who have diabetes experience insulin failure, which causes uncontrolled and high amounts of blood sugar.
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes comprises 5 to 10 percent of diabetics. This version occurs when the body's immune starts attacking cells that produces insulin. Consequently, the pancreas stops creating insulin altogether. It used to be known as juvenile onset, as the majority of patients diagnosed were under 18 years old. People with type 1 diabetes have to take an insulin shot daily.
Type 2 Diabetes is by far the most common, totaling 90 to 95 percent of new cases who have the disorder. Since insulin resistance is immediately related to excess body fat, type 2 diabetes usually arises in people more than 20 pounds overweight, and over 40 years old. In the body, normal insulin no longer suffices, which results in a rise in glucose, as the pancreas can't match the pace.
Gestational Diabetes affects pregnant women who develop a high level of glucose.
Now that we know a little bit about diabetes, let's turn to how it relates to gum disease.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is the infection of bones and tissues that hold up your teeth. Basically, it's when the gums pull away from the teeth. Not a pretty picture, right? Gingivitis, or when your gums get red and swollen, is the early stage, while the severe stage is known as periodontitis. In this phase, gums detach from the teeth, leaving room where bacteria and other germs form. When the dental support is no longer there, teeth can fall out.
How are the two linked?
Often, periodontal disease is considered a complication of diabetes. But it can work both ways; those with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease, and gum disease can play a role in the development of diabetes. Severe gum disease can elevate blood sugar, allowing a prolonged amount of time that the body must operate with high blood sugar. If glucose levels are not managed properly, you have an increased risk in getting serious periodontitis. Steer clear and make sure you pay close attention to your blood glucose levels!
In essence, diabetes reduces the body's ability to battle bacteria. The high blood sugar and bacteria mix to create dental plaque in your mouth. If not removed by flossing or brushing, the plaque can harden beneath your gum line. The longer it sits there the worse it becomes for the tissue and teeth. That is when the first stages of inflammation occur.
Taking steps to prevent and treat it
Remember, good oral health is the gateway to good overall health. It is important for people with diabetes to visit the dentist for routine checkups that will eliminate dental plaque and bacteria pockets. Even though we may not love going to the dentist, they can stop problems like gum disease before it even begins, or before it becomes too severe.
As always, brush and floss regularly, and hopefully you won't have to deal with such a headache!