Diabetes Plus Gum Disease: Twin Thieves That Can Rob You Of Your Health

Diabetes and gum disease can lead to cascading health effects.

Charles W Martin By Charles W Martin, DDS
Founder, DentistryForDiabetics.com

By themselves, gum disease and diabetes are both significant health risks. Combined, they can twist each other into a tight downward spiral of cascading health effects. Unless they are halted by your physician and your dentist working in tandem as a health care team – together with your commitment to hold up your end of the bargain – these effects can continue to compound until a catastrophic health event causes something no one wants to even think about.

The facts about the connections between oral health and diabetes are sobering. Here are just a few.

• People who have diabetes are twice as likely to develop gum disease, which then worsens your diabetes through an automatic response that your body uses to fight infection.(1) And, people with gum disease are nearly three times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those with healthy gums.(2)

• People who have diabetes and severe gum disease have a premature death rate nearly eight times higher than those who don't have periodontal disease.(3)

• Those who have gum disease and diabetes together are more than three times as likely to die of combined heart and kidney failure.(4)

• In people who have type 2, gum disease is a predictor of end-stage kidney disease.(5)

• Once established, a chronic infection that causes gum disease makes it more difficult to control diabetes, and increases damage and complications in blood vessel disease.(6)
Fortunately, there is a silver lining. Good oral health care can come to the rescue.

Clinical studies confirm that treatment of gum disease reduces oral inflammation, which removes the factor that triggers the body's inflammatory response which, in turn, plays a major role in compounding the effects of diabetes.(7)

Dental treatments that fight gum infections also help improve control of blood glucose levels.(8) Your dentist may be able to help you manage diabetes, improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of premature death.

Even if you already have severe gum disease or other dental problems, proper treatment can help stop it in its tracks. In many cases, we can even reverse the damage that's been done to your teeth and gums as well as help you manage the metabolic issues of diabetes. And, if you haven't yet developed any symptoms of diabetes-related oral health problems, we can start a prevention program that will help you stay in control of your diabetes, maintain better health and enjoy a preferred quality of life.

Perhaps the best news is that this is something that doesn't require you to exercise, take a pill, give yourself a shot of insulin, or stick to a special diet. All you need to do to get started is to see a dentist who is specially trained in oral health for people who have diabetes. Working together with your physician and your dentist, you can begin to take more control of your own health destiny.

For more information about dental care for people who have diabetes, visit http://www.dentistryfordiabetics.com and Dr. Martin's blog, http://www.dentistryfordiabetics.com/blog.

To learn more about the two-way connection between diabetes and gum disease, check out the other columns here on dLife or Dr. Martin's book, Don't Sugar Coat It.

Read Dr. Charles Martin's bio here.

Read more of Dr. Martin's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition. 

Last Modified Date: July 01, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Nicole Purcell
I have a friend, M, who has diabetes and never, ever tests her bloodsugar before she gets behind the wheel. This has always worried me about her. On Wednesday, she had a bad accident after passing out behind the wheel. She hit another car head on. I thank the universe that no one was killed, but she and the driver of the other vehicle were both badly injured. She's got a long healing road ahead of her, as does the woman she hit. I was talking about the...