Dental Health

Diabetes: The Oral Health Link

Diabetes Links between certain health conditions and gum disease have been studied in great depth. Under particular scrutiny is how periodontal disease may relate to diabetes.

What's the Link?

For over a hundred years, doctors have noted the connection between diabetes and gum disease. Diabetes can cause circulatory damage that restricts blood flow to the gums. This can make the periodontal tissue and bone more susceptible to infection. In addition, high blood sugar translates into increased levels of sugar in oral fluids, which allows the bacteria responsible for periodontal disease to thrive.

Does It Work Both Ways?

Researchers are also probing the possibility that periodontal disease may be more than a complication of diabetes; it may actually be a factor contributing to the development of the condition. In an article published in a 2008 issue of Diabetes Care, researchers examined data from participants in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) and its Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (NHEFS). At the conclusion of the 20-year follow-up period, participants with moderate to severe periodontal disease had developed diabetes at twice the rate of individuals with no gum disease. People with advanced tooth loss had a 70 percent greater chance of getting diabetes. This correlation held up even after researchers factored in other diabetes risks, such as smoking, diet, and obesity. One theory is that the inflammation from oral infection increases the body's resistance to insulin, which, in turn, makes it difficult to control blood sugar.

If you do have diabetes, tell your dentist. Be sure to get regular check ups. Remember to brush teeth gently, at least twice a day, with special attention to the gumline.

Oral health and wellness content provided by the Delta Dental Plans Association and the American Dental Association