So where does gum disease fit in?People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal (gum) disease than those without diabetes. While this may be because diabetics are more susceptible to infections, there's also been research that finds gum disease could make it harder to control your blood sugar, and that treating it helps improve diabetes symptoms. More and more, high quality evidence supports the significant relationship between diabetes and gum disease, but researchers still aren't sure which comes first—does having diseased gums increase the chance of diabetes, or does having diabetes increase the risk of gum disease? Nevertheless, gum disease is now considered the 6th major complication of diabetes. What we know so far indicates that it may be a feedback loop that works both ways! In a long-term study conducted at Columbia University in the United States, researchers followed 9,000 people who did not have diabetes. Over the 20-year study period, those individuals who had gum disease were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes as those who did not—even after adjusting for age, smoking, diet, and so on. Extending this idea, it seems that good oral hygiene and dental care to prevent infections and gum disease will also lower the risk of contracting diabetes. A particularly noteworthy study published in 2010 (Simpson et. al. Cochrane Review) demonstrated a significant improvement in the glycaemic control of diabetics (0.74% reduction) just by getting their teeth cleaned by a hygienist! Having your teeth 'cleaned' is not just to make them look good and have them polished—what the dentist/hygienist is actually doing is removing all of the bacteria that has accumulated on the teeth and gums over the 6 month+ period thus eliminating oral inflammation, increasing the function of your immune system, improving glycaemic control and general health. For people with diabetes this means that their risk of other complications reduces dramatically: 8x less chance of kidney failure, 2x less chance of stroke and heart attack, less eye complications, less amputations and less medication.
What it means for youIn practical terms, if you have gum disease, you need to follow a treatment plan that will stabilise and maintain this. Gum disease is not cured—it is managed. If you are a diabetic, you need to take very good care of your health - every aspect. Good control of your blood sugar will make preventing and correcting gum disease and other complications that much easier. Good control of oral hygiene and gum inflammation will improve your glycaemic control and make management of your diabetes easier. If you have been told that you are 'borderline' diabetic—you need to have your gums checked. By simply having your teeth scaled and removing the inflammation in your mouth, you can reduce your blood glucose (HbA1c) by 0.74% - this enough to keep you off medication! At Bite Dental, we provide a free gum disease risk assessment for people with diabetes. So if you know someone with diabetes who has not had their gums checked yet—(tell them to!) and tell them about our program. At Bite—we know diabetes.