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American Diabetes Month — The Gum Disease/Diabetes Connection

  • November 21, 2016

November is American Diabetes Month, and we’re using this health awareness event as a reminder of the dangerous link between periodontal disease and diabetes.

Each disease has been linked to the other in numerous studies, and a body of evidence supports the notion that controlling one disease may help fight the other.

The American Diabetes Association gathered these startling facts for the 2016 campaign:

  • 1 in 11 Americans has diabetes today
  • Someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with diabetes every 23 seconds
  • 86 million Americans are at risk for developing diabetes
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death

Periodontal disease is often considered a complication of diabetes, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

The diabetes/periodontal disease connection is a double-edged sword. Diabetics who have difficulty controlling blood glucose levels tend to get periodontal disease more often and with greater severity than those whose glucose is well controlled. On the flip side, those who have periodontal disease can find it more difficult to control their blood glucose levels. In fact, periodontal disease can increase blood sugar and cause the body to function with high blood sugar for longer periods of time, according to the AAP. Diabetics who experience this are at greater risk of diabetes-related complications. Studies have shown that the inflammatory processes of periodontitis and diabetes have a lot of similarities.

Thickened blood vessels are a common side effect of diabetes, and that can lead to a higher incidence of periodontal disease because the thickened vessels make it more difficult for oxygen and nourishment to reach oral tissues. This interferes with the ability of the gum and bone tissue to fight infection.

Toss smoking into the mix and the dysfunctional relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease just gets worse. Studies show that smokers are five times more likely to develop periodontal disease than nonsmokers. Smokers who are 45 years of age or older and are diabetic are 20 times more likely to develop severe cases of periodontal disease.

If you have diabetes, it is important to stay on top of your periodontal health. Have your doctor work closely with your periodontist to develop a treatment plan that will address both diseases effectively.

You can help prevent periodontal disease by flossing regularly, rinsing your mouth after flossing, and brushing your teeth and tongue at least twice daily.