Nearly one in 10 Americans is living with diabetes, a condition where the body doesn’t properly process glucose. It results in high blood sugar levels and can adversely affect your eyes, kidneys, and heart.
And perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise, but diabetes can also affect your dental health.
People with diabetes are at increased risk of gum disease, which is caused by bacterial buildup around and below the gumline. More than a fifth of those living with diabetes are affected by gum disease.
In honor of National Diabetes Month, we want to help you better understand the link between diabetes and gum disease — and what can be done about it.
Read on to learn more. Then, call the compassionate team at Houston Uptown Dentists in Houston, TX at 832-463-1021. Let’s work together to manage gum disease and achieve better overall health!
The Link Between Diabetes And Gum Disease
First, let’s go over some basic things you need to know about diabetes: There are two types of diabetes. With Type 1 diabetes, which is common in kids and young adults (and was formerly known as “juvenile diabetes”), the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone that carries sugar to cells, which rely on sugar for energy. In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not respond to insulin.
Both cases cause high blood sugar levels, which can worsen gum disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. The inverse is also unfortunately true: gum disease — like all infections — can make it more difficult to regulate blood sugar levels.
What’s more, diabetes can weaken your body’s ability to fight the bacteria that cause gum disease.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the tissue surrounding your teeth. Much like bacterial buildup on the teeth causes tooth decay, bacterial buildup on the gums causes gum disease.
There are two types of gum disease.
Gingivitis is a more mild form of gum disease, marked by gums that are irritated or bleed easily when you floss your teeth. At this stage, it’s fairly easy to cure gum disease. But once it is allowed to progress into periodontitis, it can only be managed.
In periodontitis, it’s common to experience a loss of gum tissue. This is called gum recession. In severe cases, the gums pull so far away from the teeth that they form “pockets” or gaps that expose the root. Left untreated, this invites nasty bacterial buildup that threatens the structural integrity of your teeth. This can lead to tooth loss.
Fortunately, damage from gumline recession can be repaired.
How Can Your Dentist Help?
If you have diabetes, it’s important to let your dentist know. That way, they’ll be aware of your increased risk for gum disease and other dental complications and keep an eye out for warning signs.
Routine dental exams and cleanings — once every six months — are a great place to start for everyone, regardless of whether they’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. However, research also suggests that good oral hygiene and deep cleanings can help lower your HbA1c levels, according to the American Dental Association.
If you’ve already started showing signs of gingivitis or periodontitis, Houston Uptown Dentists can help with that, too.
To remove bacterial buildup between your gumline and the roots of your teeth, we use a nonsurgical treatment called scaling and root planing. It involves gently removing plaque from above and below the gumline (scaling) and then smoothing the roots of your teeth to discourage future bacterial buildup (planing).
And if your gums have already begun to recede, we offer two ways to repair the damage.
Gumline recession has traditionally been corrected using gum grafts. This treatment involves taking a small piece of tissue and securing it over the receded gumline. This encourages healthy regrowth of gum tissue, as well as any bone that may have been lost.
We also offer the innovative a minimally invasive alternative to gum grafting called the Chao Pinhole™ Surgical Technique. This approach requires special training, so it’s not available everywhere!
With the Chao Pinhole Surgical Technique, we create a tiny hole in your gums and, using special tools, reposition your gums so they better protect your teeth. It’s a quick procedure, and in many cases, patients heal overnight!
Healthy Gums, Healthy Life
Regardless of whether you have diabetes, healthy gums are important to your overall health. It’s important to treat them well!
Brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day is a great place to start, but if you want your gums to be the best they can be, you’ll want the help of trusted dental professionals.