What is the association between gum disease and diabetes?

Posted on: 12 May 2016

Gum disease is a type of infection of the gums often caused by decay, though you may also be at a higher risk due to genetics. Another potential risk for gum disease is if you have diabetes. Here are some things to know about the link between gum disease and diabetes.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a type of infection of your gums. It can also affect the bones of your teeth. When you get gum disease, it can cause a host of problems for your teeth, from loosening and loss of teeth, to difficulty chewing, misalignment of the teeth, and frequent tooth infections that require treatment. There are also different levels of gum disease, beginning with mild disease to severe periodontal disease. The first symptoms you may notice when you have gum disease include red and swollen gums, gums that bleed when flossing or brushing, and a slight separation between the gums and the teeth. Over time, it can lead to the teeth feeling loose, elongating due to issues with bone deterioration, and the loss of teeth.

How does diabetes increase your risk?

While gum disease is a common affliction for teenagers and adults and can happen to anyone, some people are at a greater risk. If you have diabetes, you are automatically at risk of oral health problems, including gum disease. This is for a variety of reasons. First of all, if you have problems with controlling your blood sugar, that can ultimately lead to the development of gum disease. It also works the other way; if you have gum disease, it may cause more difficulty controlling your blood sugar. This is why regular dental checkups and managing your disease are vital when you have diabetes. With diabetes, you are also at a higher risk of infections in general, which is why gum disease may be more prevalent.

What should you do about it?

To start with, make sure you take good care of your teeth and gums. See your dentist regularly for checkups, x-rays, and professional cleaning. Make sure you brush and floss twice a day, and ask your dentist if they recommend fluoride or sealants to reduce the risk of decay, or if you should also use mouthwash. Also continue seeing your doctor about controlling your diabetes, checking your blood sugar daily, and paying close attention to your overall health. If you get gum disease, it can be treated with a combination of methods, including a deep cleaning, treating any tooth decay you have, and possibly having gum surgery.