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 diabetes is closely linked with gum diseases. In fact, studies estimate that the risk of having gum diseases like periodontitis is three-fold in people with diabetes. Gum diseases such as a 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 actually show that diabetes not only causes gum diseases, but gum diseases also make it difficult to control diabetes. 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 a lot of sugar in the saliva. This will, in turn, create a good 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.
Some chemicals which can cause the irritations and inflammations in the body are released by the immune system. This makes it easier for the bacteria-causing plaques to cause gingivitis which is an infection in the gums and can easily be reversed by oral hygiene.
If left untreated, gingivitis in diabetics 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-serious 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 are able to control gum diseases, they can improve their blood sugar and avoid complications like cardiovascular issues, eye problems, kidney damage and so on.
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.
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
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 A 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 see your dentist at least twice a year.
A dentist not only treats 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. oral hygiene, 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.
P. M. Preshaw & A. L. Alba & D. Herrera & S. Jepsen & A. Konstantinidis & K. Makrilakis & R. Taylor: Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship. Diabetologia. 2011; 55:21–31. DOI 10.1007/s00125-011-2342-y.
Sharma M, Jindal R, Siddiqui MA, Wangnoo SK. Diabetes and Periodontitis: A medical perspective. J Int Clin Dent Res Organ [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Mar 4]; 8:3-7. Available from: http://www.jicdro.org/text.asp?2016/8/1/3/176244