Diabetes is well known to wreak serious havoc on many organs like the kidneys, eyes, heart, and so on.
It is now well-established that gum disease is a complication of diabetes. Studies estimate that the risk of gum disease, such as periodontitis is three-fold in people with diabetes.
Periodontal diseases infections of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. In advanced stages, they lead to painful chewing problems and even tooth loss.
Like any infection, gum disease can make it hard to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Gum diseases such as the dry mouth and oral thrush are also common in people having diabetes. The question is, why does this happen?
The link between Diabetes and Gum Disease
So, what’s the link between diabetes and gum disease? Many studies show that diabetes not only causes gum diseases, but gum diseases also make it difficult to control diabetes.
People with uncontrolled diabetes get gum disease more often and more severely, and they lose more teeth.
There are four main types of gum diseases you should be aware of. They are xerostomia, gingivitis, periodontitis, and oral candidiasis (also called oral thrush).
Okay, so how can diabetes cause or worsen gum disease? First, when the blood sugar is not well controlled, there would be much sugar in the saliva. This will, in turn, create a suitable medium for bacteria to grow and thrive.
Plaque-causing bacteria grows and forms plaques on the teeth. In addition to this, studies also notice that diabetes causes changes in the immune system.
The immune system releases some chemicals which can cause the irritations and inflammations in the body. This makes it easier for the bacteria-causing plaques to cause gingivitis, which is a bacterial infection in the gums and can easily be reversed by oral hygiene.
If left untreated, gingivitis in people with diabetes can get worse quickly due to the disrupted immune system releasing these inflammatory chemicals.
The infection then spreads to the tissues inside the gums which anchor the teeth to the gums called the periodontal ligaments.
At this stage, the gum disease has progressed to periodontitis, which is more- severe gum disease and is not easily reversible. Only the dentist can help you at this stage.
Apart from gingivitis and periodontitis, diabetes can cause a dry mouth called xerostomia.
A dry mouth is a perfect condition for fungi like candida to grow in addition to the altered immune system caused by diabetes.
Without the protection of the saliva in a dry mouth, it is also easier for acid produced by plaque-causing bacteria to destroy the enamel of the tooth.
If you think this is bad, it gets worse. Gum diseases, especially periodontitis, can also make your diabetes worse.
Studies show that periodontitis is linked with poor blood sugar control and when patients can control gum diseases, they can improve their blood sugar and avoid complications like cardiovascular issues, eye problems, kidney damage and so on.
Signs of gum disease
- Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth.
- Bleeding gums while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food.
- Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before.
- Loose or separating teeth.
- Pus between your gums and teeth.
- Sores in your mouth.
- Persistent bad breath.
5 ways to prevent Gum Disease
Seeing this link, it is only advisable to do what you can to prevent gum disease if you have diabetes.
As discussed earlier, the prevention of gum disease will lead to better outcomes in diabetes – all things being equal. Here are 5 ways to prevent gum disease.
1) Practice good oral hygiene
Good old oral hygiene goes a long way to prevent different gum diseases like thrush, gingivitis, and ultimately the most notorious of them all – periodontitis.
People with diabetes tend to have a dry mouth and altered immune system, which makes it more favorable for gum diseases to thrive.
Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth can tip the odds in your favor. Brushing your teeth is probably one of the cheapest and most-effective ways of removing plaques from your teeth, as well as preventing tooth decay.
Remember to use a soft-bristled brush, brush for two minutes, twice a day. You can also use mouthwashes to prevent the build-up of plaques.
2) Use dental floss
Are you flossing regularly? Using dental flosses or interdental toothbrushes help to remove the plaques between your teeth, which may be difficult for a toothbrush to reach.
This helps you get rid of those plaques hiding between your teeth and gives a boost to your oral hygiene.
3) Chew sugar-free gum
Some chewing gums actually contain some tooth-friendly sweeteners like xylitol instead of sugar and are tooth-friendly.
You can chew on these gums to moisten the mouth and prevent dry mouth, which is quite common in people with diabetes.
4) Avoid acidic drinks
It’s important to avoid drinks like soda and carbonated drink as much as possible. This is important not only for your dental health but for your diabetes management also.
Carbonated, sugary drinks are very high in sugar content and have been linked to an increased risk of obesity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Acids can corrode the enamel and damage the tooth.
5) See your Dentist
People with diabetes are more prone to gum diseases. So, it is only logical to have dental check-ups at least twice a year.
A dentist not only offers treatment for tooth issues but can also educate you on oral health.
In conclusion, gum diseases and diabetes are synergistically linked with each other in a significant way.
So, it is important to prevent gum diseases. Practicing good oral hygiene, brushing and flossing, avoiding acidic drinks chewing sugar-free gums and seeing the dentist can go a long way to improve your health and prevent gum diseases.