Periodontal disease — or gum disease — is a type of infection that affects the tissue surrounding the teeth. It’s a widespread problem and one of the most common infections people have worldwide.
And while anyone can develop gum disease, your chances of getting it can increase if you have diabetes, especially poorly controlled diabetes. Unfortunately, without treatment, periodontal disease can compromise both your teeth and your overall health.
Daniel Park, DDS, of Beaumont Cherry Valley Dental in Beaumont, California, is an expert periodontist who provides state-of-the-art dental technology and techniques to treat dental problems and preserve oral health.
Here’s how having high blood sugar can increase your chances of developing periodontal disease — and vice versa.
Before we get into the link between diabetes and periodontal disease, it helps to have a better understanding of this dental problem.
Gum disease develops when plaque builds up on teeth and under the gums. Without proper attention, the plaque can harden into tartar, which is more difficult to remove. Over time, this tartar buildup can trigger inflammation, infection, and a variety of other symptoms, including:
Gum disease can also lead to tooth loss.
We know what you’re thinking: Diabetes affects blood sugar, not your mouth! That’s where you’re wrong.
If you have diabetes, you do indeed have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal. However, diabetes can also lead to high sugar levels in oral fluids, especially in cases of uncontrolled diabetes.
Unfortunately, the bacteria that form into plaque feed on sugar. Hence, having an elevated amount of sugar in your oral fluids can help plaque grow. Beyond that, diabetes can also impact your white blood cells, blood vessels, and saliva production — and they all play a role in your oral health.
White blood cells are your body’s best defense against infection, including those in your mouth. When you have diabetes, these cells become weakened. Without healthy white blood cells, you’re more prone to infection, and the infections can be harder to treat.
Your body depends on blood vessels to carry nutrients throughout your system. When you have diabetes, it causes blood vessels to thicken, making it harder for nutrients to reach the tissue in your mouth.
Last but not least, diabetes also tends to cause dry mouth. That can leave you with less saliva to neutralize tooth decay and acids and wash away food particles and bacteria.
And, while diabetes can increase your chances of developing gum disease, the reverse is also true. That’s because having high levels of bacteria in your mouth can cause a response from your immune system that can raise your blood sugar.
As of 2020, an estimated 34.2 million Americans were living with diabetes, and more than 1 in 5 adults didn't realize it. Fortunately, you can protect your teeth, gums, and entire body by scheduling regular dental cleanings.
Dr. Park can help identify and treat gum disease in all of its stages, but regular professional cleanings can spot and address issues before they progress.
To learn more about gum disease, diabetes, and periodontal disease, book an appointment over the phone with Beaumont Cherry Valley Dental today.