Living with diabetes means paying close attention to what you eat, taking care of your eyes and even being more mindful of your feet. But, another part of your body that requires attention is your mouth; more specifically your teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with diabetes are two times more likely to develop serious gum disease, ranging from gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) to periodontitis (severe gum disease).
“Bleeding gums is not a sign of healthy gums,” said Dr. Kim Perry, current President of the National Dental Association (NDA). Dr. Perry spoke exclusively with BlackDoctor.org during the 2017 American Diabetes Association Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes Greater Los Angeles event held at Six Flags Magic Mountain November 4.
Dr. Perry explained, “What happens with our diabetic patients is a lot of these patients develop what is called periodontal disease. That’s the more severe case of gum disease. With periodontal disease we’ll see bleeding of the gums, teeth will get a little loose, and things of that nature.” She recommends that periodontal patients see their dentist every three months for a deep cleaning.
How Does Diabetes Impact Gum Health and Vice Versa?
Research suggests that not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may potentially affect blood glucose control. Like other infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood glucose to rise and may make diabetes harder to control.
Dr. Perry explains the link between diabetes and gum disease as an “inflammatory process.” When the gums are inflamed, they are red, puffy and bleeding. What that does, according to Dr. Perry, is “that sets up a challenge for our [diabetic] patients to keep their blood sugar levels in control. What happens is that their blood sugar levels go up higher than what’s recommended and then they’re having difficulties managing the bleeding and the periodontal disease.”
“What’s really important is that we try to control our A1C levels through medication management, you should be seeing your primary care physician to focus on your diabetes and to keep those levels under control, as well as seeing your dentist every three months for that as well. That will help this diabetic patient maintain and better live a healthier life with diabetes.”
Other oral health problems that can be associated with diabetes include thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth, which can lead to soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities.
“If we can get the periodontal disease, or the gingivitis, or the bleeding of the gums under control, research tells us that it can help improve our A1C levels or our glucose levels or our sugar levels as we have called them in the past,” said Dr. Perry.
Preventing Oral Health Problems
Like any great dentist, Dr. Perry recommends…