The American Diabetes Association defines diabetes as a serious disease in which the body uses insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugars and starches and other foods into energy. 23.6 million Americans have Diabetes. 5.7 million Americans have Diabetes and do not know it!
If you or a loved one has diabetes, you already understand the importance of keeping the disease under control. However, you may not be aware of the fact that good oral hygiene not only keeps the mouth free of periodontal disease (pyorrhea of the gums), but may also have a significant impact on the control of diabetes. Periodontal disease is an inflammatory response to to a bacterial infection that, if left untreated, may cause damage to the tissues and bone surrounding the teeth and lead to tooth loss. People with diabetes are 3 to 4 times more susceptible to periodontal disease, which, like any other infection in the body can, impair their ability to process and/or utilize insulin. People with diabetes tend to have more severe bone loss, and often experience more aggressive disease activity. This causes tooth loss and problems with the digestion of food which can lead to gastrointestinal complications. The ultimate result is the inability for diabetics to control blood sugar and eat healthy nutritious foods.
Just as diabetes can increase a patient’s chances of developing periodontal disease, research suggests that periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar. Periodontal disease increases the body’s systemic inflammatory signals that serve to increase blood sugar. This contributes to increased periods of time when the body functions with unhealthy blood sugar levels. Consequently, it is important for people with diabetes to treat periodontal disease to eliminate infection for optimal metabolic control.
Periodontal disease is a leading complication of diabetes; therefore, it is important for people with diabetes to know their treatment options. If detected early, a periodontist can provide treatment that can stop the gum disease and bring the gums back to a state of health, preventing further bone and tooth loss. In fact, periodontal treatment has been shown to improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, suggesting that treating patients’ periodontal disease could decrease insulin requirements.
If diabetes is well controlled, treatment will be similar to someone who does not have diabetes. In the early stages of gum disease, treatment usually initiates with scaling and root planning, a procedure in which plaque and calculus are removed from the pockets around the teeth and near the gums. People with diabetes may do better with morning appointments, after eating a normal breakfast to prevent a severe or sudden drop in blood sugar levels. Upon determining a treatment plan, your periodontist and physician will work together to help you control both your diabetes and gum disease.