More than 23 million people in the United States have diabetes. If you're one of them, it's easy to understand why you'd want to know how diabetes affects your oral health. You might be surprised to learn that if your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease (periodontitis) and lose more teeth than people who don't have diabetes. In turn, periodontitis may cause your blood sugar to rise, making your diabetes harder to control.
What puts people with diabetes at higher risk for gum disease? The less controlled your blood sugar level, the more impaired your white blood cells become. These guys are the main defense against bacterial infections that occur in your mouth. With less of them fighting infections, there's more chance serious dental problems will occur. The good news is a dentist can keep an eye on your oral health and help keep gum disease at bay.
The Diabetes-Gum Disease Connection
Gum disease is an infection of the gums -- the tissues that support your teeth. The first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, and warning signs include red, tender gums and seriously bad breath (halitosis). As the disease progresses into periodontitis, it becomes much more severe, with receding gums, pus and tooth loss.
The catch is that gum disease is often painless. You may not know you have it until you have some serious damage. Be on the lookout for these warning signs:
- Bleeding gums when you brush or floss
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Receding gums
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose permanent teeth
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Changes in the fit of partial dentures or a dental bridge