I have an appointment with the periodontist next month. I have to get my gums built-up before I get a permanent crown. Although I don’t have gum disease, it got me thinking about diabetes, as I had just read a study about the relation of gum disease and diabetes. Diabetes runs in my family. As I get older, I get more concerned about it and I try to take counteractive measures – exercise, low-sugar diet, and keep my weight low. Those precautions now include brushing my teeth twice a day and flossing – something I have always done, but now with more reason.
There are two types of gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. It causes gums to become red, swollen and to bleed easily. There is little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis can be reversed with professional treatment.
Periodontitis on the other hand is not reversible and is subsequent to gingivitis. The chronic inflammation that occurs in periodontitis causes gums to separate from teeth, forming pockets that become infected.
Studies have long shown that having elevated glucose levels can increase the likelihood you will develop periodontitis. On the flip side, more recent studies show that the opposite is true as well, having gum disease can increase the risk for diabetes.
Having diabetes is a major risk factor for developing periodontal disease, especially when blood glucose isn’t well controlled. One large study found about 60 percent of people with diabetes have some evidence of periodontal disease.
According to researchers at Marquette University, periodontitis raises levels of inflammation of the gums. The cause of this inflammation, cytokines, can produce an insulin resistance syndrome that eventually can lead to development of diabetes.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention states that about half of the U.S. population has gum disease – and for people over 65 that increases. There are some things you can do to help keep gum disease at bay.
Here are some tips
- Brush and floss. The best way to prevent gum disease is to brush and floss regularly, but to get the best effects, you need to be sure you’re doing both correctly so you eliminate bacteria at the gum line and between teeth without harming the gums themselves. Check with your dentist or periodontist.
- Have regular checkups. Seeing a periodontist regularly is critical for adults since a periodontist has been trained to identify the early signs of gum disease even before they cause symptoms.
- Stop smoking. Smoking decreases circulation that helps keep gums healthy, and it’s also a primary contributor to gum disease.
- Watch what you eat. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals is important to keep the gum tissue healthy so it can support your teeth and ward off disease. Avoiding sugary snacks is also important since the bacteria that cause gum disease thrive on sugar.
- Chew sugar-free gum. When you can’t brush after a meal, chewing sugar-free gum can help promote the production of saliva so tiny food particles can be cleared away and your mouth’s healthy environment can be restored.
Keeping your gums healthy is just one way to fight against diabetes. No matter how you look at it, good dental care will improve your overall health. That is a good thing.