What’s the connection between gum disease and diabetes?

Gum disease is the infection or inflammation of the tissue and bones that surround and support the teeth. If left untreated, it can cause tooth and bone loss, which can be painful and contribute to other illnesses including diabetes. Some of the signs of gum disease or infection are bleeding or swollen gums, loose teeth, and changes in how the teeth come together.

Diabetes and gum disease are thought to be associated biologically, and both involve an enhanced inflammatory response within the body, which makes you more susceptible to infection.

Evidence has proven that gum disease and periodontal infection contribute to the development of complications from diabetes and may be associated with the development of type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Not only are those with diabetes susceptible to infection, but they also can have a difficult time healing from wounds and have an increased risk of mortality as the disease progresses. Complications may include heart disease, stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. Additional complications include oral health issues such as yeast and thrush, diseases of the kidney such as nephropathy, diseases of the eye that can lead to blindness, and amputations of extremities due to poor circulation, poor wound healing, and an inability to fight infection.

Controlling the blood glucose is key to preventing complications, such as mouth problems. Research has proven that controlling blood sugar lowers this risk.

You can improve your overall health at home by practicing good oral hygiene habits. Brush twice a day using an electric toothbrush, floss at least once a day prior to brushing (ADA recommends this so that the fluoride from the toothpaste can reach the surfaces of the teeth exposed by flossing), avoid tobacco and smoking because they increase your risk of gum disease, and eat a nutritional, tooth-friendly diet that is recommended by your doctor.

It’s important that you get a professional cleaning every 6 months and work closely with your dentist. He can evaluate your problem areas, assess your risk, treat any complications, and work with you to devise a regimen of good oral health practices you can do at home.

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