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Gum Disease and Diabetes Are Closely Linked

Like other medical specialties, dentistry isn’t really separate from other types of medicine. It may be handled by a different doctor, but your oral health can profoundly impact the health of the rest of your body.  Plus, the health of your body can impact your oral health. One great example of this is the links between diabetes and gum disease. Diabetes and gum disease have a close relationship where each one feeds the other. The worse your gum disease, the worse your diabetes, and vice versa.

The good news is that treatment can be reinforcing, too. Treating each condition improves the other. If you have diabetes or suspect you might have diabetes, in or around Woburn, MA, let our dentist Dr. Ryan Clancy and his skilled team take care of you. Preventive treatments like professional cleanings can help head off diabetes complications. 

woman sitting outside on her patio, suffering from a sore mouth

How Diabetes Increases Gum Disease Risk

People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing gum disease. There are several factors that lead to this connection. First, diabetes causes changes to the way the body nourishes itself and removes waste from tissues. This, in general, makes the body less healthy, and contributes to the degenerative effects associated with diabetes, such as neuropathy. It weakens the bones of the jaw and the gums, making the mouth more susceptible to infection by oral bacteria.

In addition, poorly controlled blood sugar also raises the level of sugar in other bodily fluids, including the saliva. This incidental access to blood sugar feeds harmful oral bacteria, which can cause their population to increase to dangerous levels.

This effect is so strong that gum disease and tooth loss can be used as a screening tool for undiagnosed diabetes. In a recent study, people who have severe gum disease or tooth loss are about twice as likely to have undiagnosed diabetes as the controls. 

How Gum Disease Worsens Diabetes

On the other hand, gum disease can make diabetes worse. 

The most straightforward link here is that gum disease, like other infections, can make it harder to regulate blood sugar. With poorer blood sugar control, people with gum disease are at a higher risk of experiencing complications from their diabetes.

For example, people with diabetes and gum disease are more likely to have cardiovascular complications like stroke, heart attack, and more. People with diabetes and gum disease are also more likely to experience damage to their liver and/or kidneys. These complications are so serious that one study showed people with diabetes and gum disease are up to three times more likely to die from these complications than people with diabetes alone.

Inflammation Creates a Mutually Reinforcing Cycle

Perhaps the strongest connection between the two conditions, however, is the common impact on inflammation. Inflammation is a key part of the body’s immune response. Both diabetes and gum disease damage this process, making it less effective against bacteria and more harmful to the body.

Diabetes and gum disease attack the membrane of the cells in your body, weakening them. They disrupt the function of the cell’s powerhouse, the mitochondria, and they make it hard for cells to eliminate waste. All this keeps the body from recognizing and attacking bacteria.

When the immune system can’t effectively fight oral bacteria, the oral bacteria population grows. In response, the body tries to elevate the inflammatory response. However, the disrupted inflammation response means that instead of an effective immune response, people experience damaging systemic inflammation. 

Controlling Gum Disease Improves Diabetes Management

Fortunately, gum disease treatment can help you get control over your diabetes. Treating gum disease helps improve your ability to control blood sugar levels. This in turn provides real benefits to diabetes patients, reducing their need for care and their risk of diabetes complications. Overall, research suggests that gum disease treatment can save people with diabetes over $6000 in medical expenses. That’s a powerful incentive for people with diabetes to seek treatment for gum disease.

A Woburn/Winchester Dentist Protecting Your Oral and Overall Health

At Divine Smiles, we are dedicated to protecting the oral and overall health of our patients. Dr. Clancy can help  you identify your gum disease and will recommend an appropriate level of treatment depending on the severity of your condition. He can work together with your doctor to help manage your diabetes.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from these interlinked conditions, please call (781) 396-8558 or use our online contact form to request an appointment at Divine Smiles in Woburn, MA today.

By Dr. Ryan Clancy | December 2nd, 2021 | Gum Disease |

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