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Our caring commitment for you is more than just dental health. Your oral health and general well being are interrelated. In light of that, and knowing that March 27 is American Diabetes Alert Day, we’d like to urge you to find out if you are at risk for diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 18.2 million people have diabetes. Of that number, 5.2 million people are undiagnosed, putting them at a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, and periodontal disease.

What is diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your body does not produce enough insulin, which is a hormone that helps glucose, or sugar, get from the bloodstream and into the cells of your body, giving them energy. As a result, you get too much sugar in your blood but your body doesn’t have enough of the energy it needs to support you. If you think you might have diabetes, visit a physician for diagnosis immediately.

Diabetes and periodontal disease

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, periodontal disease is more common among people with diabetes. Diabetes frequently causes blood vessels to thicken and become less elastic, which decreases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues and slows the removal of harmful wastes. This can weaken your mouth’s and your body’s resistance to infection. Also, the harmful bacteria in your mouth that are responsible for periodontal disease thrive on sugars, including glucose, the sugar linked to diabetes.

If diabetes isn’t controlled properly, high glucose levels in your saliva feed these bacteria and set the stage for gum disease. And interestingly, the reverse is also true; an infection in the gums makes it more difficult for you to control your blood sugar. Gums infected with periodontal disease are toxic reservoirs of disease-causing bacteria. The bacteria hide in pockets next to the teeth, where the gums have pulled away from the tooth surface in response to the infection.

Diabetics who don’t successfully control their blood sugar levels often experience a decrease in the flow of saliva, which can lead to a condition called dry mouth, or xerostomia. Having a dry mouth may seem to be nothing more than an irritation, but it can cause some serious oral health problems. A lack of moisture in the mouth allows plaque, the sticky film of food residue and bacteria, to build up on teeth, and plaque accumulation is the main cause of periodontal disease.

It’s important for everyone, especially diabetics, to remove plaque from their teeth each day by flossing and brushing or it may build up and harden to become tartar, or calculus. Regular dental visits are important, too. A professional tooth cleaning is the only way to remove the tartar build-up in your mouth effectively. With good dental and medical care, your gums and teeth can remain healthy and free of periodontal disease.

If you have any questions about gum disease and diabetes, we’d be happy to talk with you about it. Our periodontist is able to treat gum disease with non-surgical or surgical techniques. Just give us a call or ask at your next appointment.