How treating gum disease can help people with diabetes

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is a common ailment in dental offices. Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque that results in inflammation of the gums. For the general population, proper oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are the best ways to prevent gingivitis. Unfortunately, certain risk factors, like diabetes, increase one’s risk of developing gum disease at some point.

Diabetes Increases Gum Disease Risk

Those with diabetes have an increased risk of developing gum disease. With that being said, this risk factor does not translate to those with diabetes having more disease-causing bacteria in their mouths than those without diabetes. The increased risk is due to the fact that the body responds to the bacteria differently if you have diabetes. Due to having a higher inflammatory response to gum-disease-causing bacteria, those with diabetes are not as able to ward off the disease.

Gingivitis, if left untreated, leads to periodontitis, a more advanced stage of gum disease. Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis is not reversible. Because of the reversible nature of gingivitis, it is important to treat gum disease as quickly as possible. If you are suffering from red, swollen, or bleeding gums, have sensitive teeth, have teeth that are loose or appear to shift, or have regular bad breath, you may be suffering from gum disease.

Treat Gum Disease, Control Blood Sugar

While everyone should do their due diligence to treat gum disease as quickly as possible, it is paramount that those with diabetes take their gum disease treatment seriously. By properly treating gum disease, studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be controlled.

In a study with 264 participants with type 2 diabetes and periodontitis (the second stage of gum disease), researchers wanted to explore whether or not treatment of gum disease could benefit the overall management of type 2 diabetes. Followed for one year, patients that received treatment for their periodontitis saw, not only improvements in their levels of blood glucose, but in the health of their blood vessels and kidneys as well.

For those in the study that received treatment, treatment included whole mouth scaling. Two months following, those who had a more aggressive form of the disease received periodontal surgical therapy; those without an aggressive form continued to receive root scaling until the study ceased. During the course of the study, researchers monitored blood sugar levels of the participants.

In addition to improvements in blood glucose levels, researchers also noted an improvement in the health of participants’ kidneys (creatinine blood levels and the amount of blood that passes through glomeruli), as well as improved flow-mediated dilation in the arteries. Of course, oral health also improved.

Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

While early treatment of gum disease is beneficial, the best way to treat gum disease is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Here are a few tips on how to ward off gum disease:

  • Because acidic drinks can erode tooth enamel, which leads to tooth decay, acidic drinks like sodas, energy drinks, and water with acidic fruits like lemons and/or limes should be avoided. To further protect your teeth, be sure to drink out of a straw when possible.
  • Brushing and flossing should be a regular part of your daily oral hygiene routine. Floss your teeth gently to remove any plaque or food particles and brush your teeth for two minutes twice daily; this includes your tongue.
  • Plaque on your own. A professional cleaning twice-per-year is recommended to ensure optimal oral health.
  • If you suffer from dry mouth, be sure to ask your dentist about treatment options. Saliva plays a big role in cleaning out the mouth and reducing plaque buildup. Lack of saliva production can result in tooth decay, halitosis, and gum disease. Increase your saliva production by chewing on sugar-free gum or eating sugar-free candies.

Treating gum disease can greatly help those with type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes and are concerned about your oral health, make an appointment with your dentist today to discuss your treatment options.

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