Periodontal Disease and Diabetes


Diabetes is a serious, incurable disease that is characterized by too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Diabetes affects between 12 and 14 million American, and can lead to a variety of health issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

Type II diabetes occurs when the body is unable to regulate insulin levels, meaning too much glucose stays in the blood. Type I diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce any insulin at all.

Research has shown that people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-diabetics. Diabetics with insufficient blood sugar control also develop periodontal disease more frequently and severely than those who have control over their diabetes.

The relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease results from a variety of factors. Diabetes sufferers are more susceptible to all types of infections, including periodontal infections, because slowed circulation gives bacteria the opportunity to colonize. Also, high glucose levels in saliva promote growth of gum disease-causing bacteria.  Diabetes also reduces the body’s overall resistance to infection, which increases the probability of the gums becoming infected.

Moderate to severe cases of periodontal disease elevate sugar levels in the body, increasing the amount of time the body has to function with high blood sugar. Diabetics with periodontitis are most likely to suffer from the increased levels because of their predisposition.  So periodontal disease exacerbates the difficulty for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels.

Blood vessel thickening is another concern for diabetics. Blood vessels function by providing nutrients and removing waste products from the body. When they are thickened as a result of diabetes, these exchanges are unable to occur. As a result, harmful waste is left in the mouth, which can weaken gum tissue resistance and lead to infection and disease.

Smoking and tobacco use is detrimental to anyone’s oral and overall health, but it is particularly harmful for diabetics. Diabetic smokers aged 45 and older are 20 times more likely to develop periodontal disease than those who do not smoke.

It is very important for everyone to brush teeth effectively, floss daily, and visit the dentist regularly, but it is especially essential that diabetics practice these measures.