We keep hearing about how medical conditions like diabetes can affect our dental health, but why is there a connection? It seems like these are entirely separate issues, but there are good reasons why dentists and doctors all over the world keep stressing on the link between these seemingly unconnected terms – diabetes and oral health.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels. This condition may be caused by the body’s inability to respond to or produce enough insulin, which is the hormone that regulates blood sugar in the body. In some cases, diabetes may result due to hereditary or lifestyle factors too.
A cure is yet to be discovered for this condition, so patients afflicted with diabetes can only manage the disease by keeping their blood glucose levels within a normal range. This can normally be achieved through diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication prescribed by your doctor.
Types of Diabetes
There are generally two major types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is also called juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, and occurs when the body stops producing insulin. This condition accounts roughly to about 10% of all cases. Anyone suffering from Type 1 diabetes requires daily insulin injections to survive in addition to eating a special diet and performing regular blood checks to ensure glucose levels are within a normal range.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common, accounting for 90% of all cases. In this strain of the disease, the body either fails to produce enough insulin or becomes resistant to the hormone. People who are overweight and obese are more susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes. If the disease is not yet advanced, type 2 diabetic patients may be able to control the symptoms by eating healthy, regular exercise and losing weight. However, this condition is often progressive, and at some point patients end up relying on insulin tablets.
If neglected, diabetes causes blood sugar levels to spike up to abnormal levels, which can in turn cause a wide range of health complications, including dental ones like gum disease, infections and more.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection caused by bacteria that attacks gums. As a result, this health problem is often referred to as gum disease. This condition damages the soft oral tissue that holds your teeth together. When it advances, it can spread and infect the bone that supports your teeth. At this stage, teeth start to become loose and may eventually fall out or need to be removed.
Connection between Diabetes and Gum Disease
While most dental health conditions are often caused by poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease can also be a complication of diabetes. Studies have shown that patients diagnosed with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease. Due to this fact, it is important for diabetic patients to know how they can prevent oral health problems, the early warning signs of gum disease, as well as the treatment options that are available.
Warning Signs of Diabetes and Periodontal Disease
Gum disease can be harder to treat when it is at an advanced stage. It is therefore important for diabetics to detect the disease early on. The initial telltale signs of this dental disorder include:
- Bleeding gums during and after brushing teeth
- Inflamed gums that may also be red and tender
- A lingering bad taste in the mouth
- Development of deep pockets between teeth and gums
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
Other Dental Complications Associated with Diabetes
It is important to note that periodontal disease is not the only oral health problem that diabetic patients may develop. When blood glucose levels are left to spiral out of control, other oral health conditions may occur such as dry mouth, burning mouth syndrome, and fungal infections.
Diabetic patients who seek treatment for severe periodontal disease through surgery are more likely to develop complications. It is therefore important to follow the guidelines suggested by the American Dental Association after going through oral surgery for gum disease treatment.
What Does the Treatment Involve?
The right treatment for periodontal disease in diabetics will largely depend on how advanced the condition is. Dental specialists can recommend a wide variety of treatment methods that range from maintaining regular oral hygiene and soft tissue grafts, to guided tissue regeneration and bone surgery. In most cases, the dentist and physician need to work together in order to come up with the best dental treatment for a diabetic patient.
The experienced dental team at Monarch Dental Clinic can help you beat diabetes-related tooth or gum problems. Contact us to learn more today!