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The link between diabetes and gum disease

The link between diabetes and gum disease
The link between diabetes and gum disease

Diabetes and gum disease 

Around 7% of the UK population is now living with diabetes; approximately one million people have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, 40 000 children have diabetes and more than 3000 children are diagnosed every year. 

Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. All food you eat is turned into sugar and used for energy. In Type I diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from your blood to the cells that need it for energy. In Type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. Both cases result in high blood sugar levels, which can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body.

So what does it have to do with your smile and what can you do to protect it?

If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to have oral health problems like cavities, gum disease and general inflammation. Your mouth doesn't heal as quickly.

Symptoms to watch for

The warning signs of diabetes affect every part of your body. After a blood test, you may be told by a doctor that you have high blood sugar. You may feel excessively thirsty or have to urinate a lot. Weight loss and fatigue are other common symptoms. Diabetes can also cause you to lose consciousness if your blood sugar falls too low.

If diabetes is left untreated, it can take a toll on your mouth as well. You should call your dentist if you:

  • Have bleeding or sore gums (gingivitis)
  • Get repeat oral infections 
  • Have bad breath that won't go away
  • May experience delayed wound healing
  • May have less saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry (also called xerostomia)

Why people with diabetes are more prone to gum disease

Everyone has more tiny bacteria living in your mouth now than there are people on this planet. If these bacteria make their home in your gums, you can end up with a periodontal disease. This chronic, inflammatory disease can destroy your gums, all the tissues holding your teeth and even your bones.

Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting nearly 22% of those diagnosed. Especially with increasing age, poor blood sugar control increases the risk of gum problems.  In fact, people with diabetes are at a higher risk for gum problems because of poor blood sugar control. Diabetes is harder to control because you are more susceptible to infections and are less able to fight the bacteria invading the gums.

How your dentist can help you fight diabetes

Regular dental visits are important. Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease. Practising good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your hygienist can help to lower your HbA1c. (This is a lab test that shows your average level of blood sugar over the previous three months. It indicates how well you are controlling your diabetes.) At Bow Lane, our dental team can carry out this HbA1c test and give you your result in minutes.

But most importantly, you need to think about protecting your teeth and gums. It is what you do every day that counts.

Your diabetes dental health Action plan

​​Teamwork involving self-care and professional care from your Bow Lane dentist will be beneficial in keeping your healthy smile as well as potentially slowing progression of diabetes. Here are some oral health-related habits you can build on that will help you:

  • Brush twice a day – If you have gum recession, interspace brushes may be more effective than floss to clean between your teeth.
  • Choose the right food and drink – follow a healthy, balanced diet which is low in sugar.
  • Visit your dentist regularly – having regular check-ups means you’ll be able to monitor the disease. Ask to see a periodontist (gums specialist) who can help you better understand how to control your diabetes. 
  • Avoid smoking completely – smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder for you to fight gum infections. And once you have gum disease, smoking makes it harder for your gums to heal. Don't be afraid to ask for help with giving up smoking if you need it.
  • Remember, you can always talk to us for more advice if you need it.

Managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment, and that includes proper dental care. 

If you value your oral as well as your overall health, a periodontal evaluation is a good idea. Give us a call today at 020 7236 3600 or simply book your appointment online.

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Bow Lane Dental Group, 2a Bow Lane, London, EC4M 9EE

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020 7236 3600

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