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Bad Connection: Diabetes And Gum Disease

decay_prevention_5 __Sunrise Dental | Chapel Hill | Durham | Raleigh | Cary, NC
We are a little concerned about the growing diabetes problem in North Carolina. In 1997, 4.4 percent of Tar Heel State residents had been told that they have diabetes. In 2015, they rose to 10.8 percent of our state population, according to data provided for America’s Health Rankings. Why does that have us, the dentists at Sunrise Dental, concerned? Because people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease. And gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States. Periodontal disease already affects a majority of American adults. Having diabetes only increases your odds of developing oral health problems as well. Today we want to look at what researchers have learned — and what they are still trying to figure out — about the connection between these two diseases. What We Know Diabetes and gum disease are connected. Multiple studies have shown that people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease than other people who are not diabetic. This is so common that some experts consider gum disease to be a possible symptom of diabetes. To be clear, you can have diabetes without having gum disease, and you can develop gum disease even if you don’t have diabetes. It’s just that having diabetes makes it more likely that you will develop gum disease at some point. So what are the symptoms you need to know? The first signs of gum disease are swollen, red gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. These are the symptoms of a mild form of periodontal disease called gingivitis. You may be able to reverse this by brushing (twice a day) and flossing (every day) according to the American Dental Association guidelines. For the sake of argument, let’s assume you ignore these signs and continue doing whatever you’ve been doing. As your gum disease gets worse, you may develop periodontitis. It’s symptoms include:
  • Sore, tender, or painful gums
  • Receding gums (gums that pull away from your teeth)
  • Pus leaking from your gums
  • Loose teeth
As the disease progresses, it may create pockets inside your gums, which makes it harder to remove. This can allow bacteria to attack the bones that hold your teeth in your mouth, which is why your teeth can feel loose or fall out. Treating Gum Disease If you have periodontitis, then you will need treatment from a dental professional to stop it. Our preference is to treat gum disease without surgery. We will watch for the symptoms of gum disease whenever you come to our office for a routine cleaning. If we notice advanced periodontal disease, then we may suggest scaling and root planing. Some people describe scaling and root planing as a deep cleaning procedure. It is a step beyond what we do during a routine cleaning and examination. For this, we will need to get underneath your gumline. This allows us to remove bacteria, plaque, and tartar that has built up around the roots of your teeth. If this isn’t enough to resolve your problem, we will look into other options for treatment, such as perio laser treatment. What We Don’t Know This may come as a surprise, but experts don’t know for certain why people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease. In spite of the connection between these conditions, the cause is still being studied. Experts do have a few ideas about possible causes, however. As you may know, people with diabetes have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels. The bacteria that cause gum disease live on the sugars that are in the foods that we eat. Diabetes can cause your blood vessels to become thicker. This is problematic because it may slow down the delivery of nutrients to your gums. This can make it harder for the soft tissues in your mouth to fight off infections. Another possibility has to do with another common symptom of diabetes — dry mouth. The saliva in your mouth helps to remove bacteria. When your mouth is dry, the bacteria can grow more easily, and the more bacteria in your mouth, the more likely you are to have gum disease. Watch Your Mouth In this case, we mean that you should stay alert. If you notice the symptoms of gum disease, take the proper steps to treat it. Brush, floss, and visit the Sunrise Dental location closest to you. We have dentist offices in Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. You can make an appointment by filling out an online form or by calling the location nearest to you.