Diabetics be Careful

Happening Issue 73 Jul, 2010

If you have diabetes, you know the disease can harm your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and many other important systems in your body. Did you know that it can also cause problems in your mouth? People with diabetes have a higher than normal risk of gum diseases.

Factors That Link Diabetes to Gum Disease

Diabetic Control:

Like other complications from diabetes, gum disease, too, is linked to diabetic control. People with poor blood sugar control can get gum disease more often and more severely, and they lose more teeth than people with good diabetic control.

Blood Vessel Changes:
Thickening of blood vessels is a complication of diabetes that may increase the risk of gum disease. Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nourishment to body tissues including the mouth, and carry away the tissues’ waste products. Diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken, which slows the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes. This can weaken the resistance of gum and bone tissue to infection.


Many kinds of bacteria (germs) thrive on sugars including glucose, the sugar linked to diabetes. When diabetes is poorly controlled, high glucose levels in mouth fluids may help germs to grow and set the stage for gum disease.

The harmful effects of smoking, particularly heart disease and cancer, are well known. Studies show that smoking also increases the chances of developing gum disease. In fact, smokers are five times more likely than nonsmokers to have gum disease. For smokers with diabetes, the risk is even greater. If you are a smoker with diabetes, age 45 or older, you are 20 times more likely than a person without these risk factors to get severe gum disease.

Body resistance:

Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, which then increases the probability of the gums becoming infected.

People with diabetes have special needs and your dentist is equipped to meet those with your help. Keep your dentist informed of any changes in your condition and any medication you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not under good control.

First and foremost, control your blood glucose level. Then, take good care of your teeth and gums, along with regular checkups every six months. To control thrush—a fungal infection—maintain good diabetic control, avoid smoking and if you wear dentures, remove and clean them daily. Good blood glucose control can also help prevent or relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.

While it has been established that people with diabetes are more prone to developing gum disease, new research implies that chronic gum disease may be a risk factor for diabetes. Recently, the American Diabetic Association has added gum problems as a risk factor for diabetes. Gum diseases are infections of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. In advanced stages, they lead to painful chewing problems and even loss of teeth. Like any infection, gum disease can make it hard for you to keep your blood sugar under control.

How does this happen? Gum disease can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream and activate cells that produce inflammatory biological signals that have a destructive effect throughout the body. In the pancreas, the cells responsible for insulin can be damaged or destroyed. Once this happens, it may trigger Type 2 diabetes, even in a healthy individual with no other risk factors for diabetes.

Therefore, diabetes and gum problems are like a double edge sword. If you have one of them, it is probable that you will be prone to the other. The unfortunate part of it is that both the conditions are very common and millions of people are affected by them. My advice is that if you have one of these diseases, keep it under control so that it does not trigger any other