Uncontrolled Diabetes Can Trigger Gum Disease
Diabetes that is not properly controlled can lead to periodontal diseases. That’s why it is even more important for people who have diabetes to take care of their health and their teeth and gums.
Periodontal Disease Defined
Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums and bone that support the teeth.1, 3 If diabetes is not controlled, high blood glucose levels encourage the growth of bacteria in the mouth.1, 4 These bacteria can cause infection, and because diabetes weakens the body’s resistance to infection, the gums are among the tissues likely to be affected.1
People who have uncontrolled diabetes may develop periodontal diseases more often and more severely than those with controlled diabetes.1 They may be more likely to lose more teeth as a result, too.1 Smoking is also a factor.1, 2, 4 While tobacco products are harmful to oral health even for people without diabetes, a person with diabetes who smokes is at much greater risk for gum disease than a person who does not have diabetes.4
Warning Signs and Treatment
You can have periodontal disease and not have all the warning signs.2 If you have diabetes and notice any of the following symptoms, it’s important to consult your dental health professional as soon as possible:1, 4
red, swollen, tender gums2,4
gums that bleed easily2, 4
receding gums2, 4
loose or separating teeth2, 4
persistent bad breath2, 4
a change in the way dentures fit2, 4
a change in the way the teeth fit together when you bite4
There are two stages of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.2 Gingivitis is the milder and reversible form of the disease.2, 3 It affects only the gums.2 If not properly addressed, gingivitis can lead to the more severe stage, periodontitis.2 This form of gum disease can damage the gums and bone that support the teeth.3
Treatment for periodontal diseases will depend on how far the disease has progressed and your overall health.2 If you have a periodontal disease, your dental health professional will discuss treatment options with you.
Steps to Prevention
Because diabetes puts the mouth at increased risk for periodontal disease, if you have diabetes you need to take steps to keep the body and mouth healthy.1 Here’s how:
Try to maintain normal blood glucose levels.4 Be sure to tell your dental health professional that you have diabetes.4
Take care of your mouth. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, paying special attention to the gum line.3 Floss at least once a day.1,2 If you wear dentures, keep them clean.4
Eat a well-balanced diet.1, 2, 3
See your dental health professional for regular dental cleanings and checkups.1, 2, 3, 4
If you smoke, quit.4
1 “Diabetes: Frequently Asked Questions.” American Dental Association.http://www.ada.org/3069.aspx?currentTab=1 Accessed 2010.
2 “Disease, Gum (Diseases, Periodontal).” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association. www.ada.org/3063.aspx?currentTab=1 Accessed 2010.
3 “Disease, Gum (Diseases, Periodontal)." Oral Health Topics, American Dental Associations. www.ada.org/3063.aspx?currentTab=1 Accessed 2010.
4 “Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy.” National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, April 2008. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/complications_teeth/index.htm Accessed 2010.