Diabetes and Gum Disease

Along with a long list of other complications, gum disease can result from diabetes that is not properly controlled. The two main forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. With gingivitis, the gums become red and swollen and may easily bleed. If not treated, this milder form of gum disease can become full-blown periodontitis, which is where the gums pull away from the teeth and infection takes a firm hold, leading to bone, tissue and tooth loss.

Impaired blood flow that is present with diabetes can affect how well the body moves nutrients to the cells and tissues and removes waste. This can weaken the bones and gums, leading to increased susceptibility to periodontal infection. The higher glucose levels present in the mouths of diabetics also encourage bacterial growth. Combined with poor hygiene, this becomes a breeding ground for infection.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

Early detection of gum disease is crucial to prevent serious infection that may result in bone and tooth loss. Different individuals will present and experience different symptoms but some of the more common indicators of gum disease are:

  • Gums that are red and swollen
  • Tender gums
  • Frequent bleeding while brushing or flossing teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Teeth that are loose or appear to be moving apart
  • More than the occasional instance of bad breath
  • Dentures that no longer fit
  • Discharge or secretion between the teeth and gums
  • Change in bite or jaw alignment

The relationship between diabetes and gum disease is much like a double-edged sword. Once the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, pockets form that become infected and difficult to treat. This kind of serious infection can cause blood sugar levels to rise even more, which means that not only does the original diabetes contribute to the gum disease and make it harder to treat, but the infection in the gums may make it that much harder to control the diabetes.

What route your dentist chooses to treat your gum disease will depend on how far advanced it is. First and foremost, the goal will be to control the infection. Some of the more commonly used methods to stop the infection and prevent further damage include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Enzyme suppressants
  • Scaling –removing built-up tartar with lasers or ultrasonic devices
  • Root planing – smoothing root surfaces to discourage bacteria and tartar buildup
  • Flap surgery – to expose roots for deeper scaling and root planing
  • Bone and tissue grafts

There is nothing good about gum disease. While it can be treated, the treatment is usually painful and expensive. Prevention is a far better option. This makes attention to good oral hygiene practices and close adherence to diet, medication and other parts of diabetic treatment protocol essential.