Diabetes and Gum Disease: A Two-Way Street

Managing your diabetes can be a lifelong challenge. It is a blood sugar condition that affects many areas of your health. When it comes to your mouth, however, the relationship is a two-way street. Not only does uncontrolled diabetes increase your risk for gum disease, but poor gum health can also impact your blood sugar levels.

If your diabetes is not under control, your white blood cell function is compromised. This is your body’s primary source of defense against bacterial infection. This supports the fact that poorly managed diabetes increases the risk of periodontal disease. Dry mouth, inflammation and poor healing are common consequences of diabetes that all contribute to moderate and severe gum disease, which can eventually result in tooth loss.

On the other hand, the presence of gum disease can also make it more difficult for patients with diabetes to control their blood sugar. Periodontal disease has been shown to increase blood sugar, which is less than ideal for someone who has trouble functioning under periods of high blood sugar. A bacterial infection, such as periodontal disease, can impact your metabolism and make it significantly more challenging to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

There have also been recent reports that suggest that gum disease could be a precursor to diabetes. Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that individuals with elevated levels of periodontal disease were nearly twice as likely to become diabetic within 20 years, even after adjusting for age, smoking, obesity and diet.

Regardless of which comes first, it is critical that you address and treat both diabetes and gum disease. While each condition can worsen the other, they both can destroy other aspects of your overall health. If you do have diabetes, make sure you discuss your oral health needs with your dentist. It is common for diabetic patients to require more frequent exams and cleanings.

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