Diabetes and Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Diabetes and Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Diabetes that is not properly controlled can lead to periodontal (gum) diseases in both young and old people. Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place.

Because of blood vessel changes that occur with diabetes, the efficiency of the flow of nutrients and removal of wastes from body tissues may become impaired. This impaired blood flow can weaken the gums and bone, making them more susceptible to infection.

In addition, if diabetes is poorly controlled, higher glucose levels in the mouth fluids will encourage the growth of bacteria that can cause gum disease. On the other hand, uncontrolled periodontal disease may also make it more difficult to control the diabetes.

A third factor, smoking, is harmful to oral health even for people without diabetes. However, a person with diabetes who smokes is at a much greater risk for gum disease than a person who does not have diabetes.

Paired with poor oral hygiene, diabetes can lead to gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease, or to periodontitis, severe gum disease.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of gum disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of gum disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult a dentist or other oral health specialist for a diagnosis.

What are the different types of periodontal disease?

The different types of periodontal disease are often classified by the stage the disease has advanced to at the time of evaluation, including:

Treatment for periodontal disease

Specific treatment for periodontal disease will be determined by your dentist based on:

Treatment may include any, or a combination of, the following:

Diabetes and other oral problems

Diabetes can also cause other oral problems, including:

Preventing periodontal disease and other oral problems

Proper care of your teeth and gums can go a long way in preventing the onset of oral problems associated with diabetes. The following toothbrushing and flossing tips are recommended by the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK):

  • Brush twice daily with a soft, nylon brush with rounded bristles and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use small, circular motions and short back-and-forth motions (avoid hard back-and-forth motions).
  • Brush the tongue each time you brush your teeth.
  • Brush for about three minutes to clean all of the teeth well.
  • Brush the top, back, and front of each tooth.
  • Dental floss should be about 18 inches long with each use.
  • Use a gentle "sawing" motion to get the floss in-between the teeth.
  • Curve the floss around each tooth and scrape up and down several times, from below the gum to the top of the tooth.
  • Rinse after flossing.

Your dentist is part of your diabetes management team. The NIDDK suggests that you alert your dentist to changes in your health or medications on each visit. In addition, sharing some of your diabetes test results, like your A1C test or your fasting blood glucose test, can help the dentist better manage your dental care. Finally, if your diabetes is not well controlled, ask your dentist if you need antibiotics before and after dental treatment.

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