Did you know that November is National Diabetes Month? Diabetes may seem like something that only affects your blood sugar, but it also can have major effects on your oral health. Keep reading to learn more about diabetes and how it can affect your oral health!
Just over 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and 1 in 3 have pre-diabetes, as of February 2020. That is a total of 34.2 million Americans with diabetes and 88 million with pre-diabetes! New cases of diabetes are on the rise in both children and adults
Diabetes affects how your body turns food into energy. Your body uses insulin to help sugar from your food enter cells so the sugar can be used for energy. In diabetes, either there is not enough insulin, or the body does not respond to the insulin normally. Because of the changes to insulin, too much sugar stays in your bloodstream
Increased sugar in diabetes can lead to heart disease, vision loss, kidney disease, and periodontal (gum) disease
There are a number of risk factors for diabetes, some of which you can control, and some of which you cannot control. See below for some of these risk factors. Risk factors in green you can work to improve, while risk factors in blue you cannot change. Periodontal disease has components of both and is highlighted in purple.
Diabetes Risk Factors
Diabetes and Periodontal Disease
It has been suggested that diabetes and periodontal disease are a two-way street! That means that periodontal disease can make your diabetes worse, and diabetes can cause troubles for your oral health. Studies have shown that severe periodontitis is more common in patients with diabetes than in patients without diabetes. Below are some ways that diabetes and periodontal (gum) disease may be related:
1) Decreased saliva flow and increased sugar around teeth and gums from diabetes can affect your oral health
Diabetes can lead to a decrease in saliva flow. Saliva has many protective factors to help keep your teeth and gums healthy, so with less saliva, there is less protection. There is also fluid that sits around your gums/teeth that can have increased sugar in someone with diabetes. This increase in sugar can cause an increase in bad bacteria, leading to more gum and bone loss. The sugar in your saliva can also increase tooth decay (cavities).
2) People with diabetes show lower defenses to infections, including periodontal disease
Our bodies have many ways to defend themselves against bacteria, viruses, etc. In diabetes, how the body defends itself can change in a number of ways.
First, the walls of blood vessels thicken when someone has diabetes. This makes it harder for cells that fight infections to get to the tissues where they are needed. Without these important cells, infections (including periodontal (gum) disease) can get worse, and it can be harder for the gum and bone to heal after an infection. That means with thickened blood vessels, the tissue is more susceptible to getting an infection, less able to fight that infection, and slower to heal after the infection.
Second, the way cells respond to infections changes, making them less effective. In addition to having trouble getting to the infection (due to the blood vessel changes discussed above), once our cells reach the infection, they are not as effective at fighting it. Like above, this adds to increased infection and slower healing from the infection.
Third, how the body builds its tissue changes based on altered collagen metabolism. Collagen makes up the foundation of gum tissue and bone (in addition to many other parts of your body!). Our bodies naturally break down old collagen and rebuild new collagen to help keep themselves healthy. When collagen breakdown is not normal, it can cause an imbalance that leads to more loss of bone and gum tissue. This results in less support for teeth and causes problems for oral health.
3) Increased full-body inflammation can affect both diabetes and oral health
Many markers of inflammation are found across many diseases (i.e. arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and periodontitis). Increases in these markers can make the diseases worse. This means that diabetes can increase inflammation which affects your gum and bone health, and vis versa. It also means that poor oral health can affect many other whole-body conditions. This is part of why it is important to do what you can to keep your mouth as healthy as possible.
The good news is there are many things you can do to improve your oral health, even if you have diabetes. The first step to keeping your mouth healthy is to schedule with a periodontist for a full oral health check-up!
If you have questions- let me know! I would love to answer them and help you understand your gum and oral health! If you are interested in having a full oral health check-up give us a call at (636) 242-6450 or Contact Us. We are looking forward to hearing from you and meeting you!
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as information about diabetes. If you are interested in learning more, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/index.html, or the American Diabetes Association at https://diabetes.org/.