Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

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Filed Under: Blood Sugar, Diabetes Complications
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

People living with diabetes are at higher risk of developing periodontal disease than people without blood sugar problems.

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, occurs when the gums become infected and inflamed. Signs that you may have periodontal disease include:

  • red, sore, swollen gums
  • bleeding gums
  • loose or sensitive teeth
  • bad breath
  • trouble chewing

According to the CDC, young adults dealing with diabetes have about twice the risk of periodontal disease than those without diabetes. Also, people with poorly controlled blood sugar levels are nearly three times more likely to have severe forms of gum disease, and they typically lose more teeth than those without diabetes.

As is the case with most diabetes risk factors, a primary culprit behind the increased risk of periodontal disease is damage to blood vessels due to the inability to maintain blood sugar levels within the healthy range. Without nourishment and removal of wastes from their tissues, the gums become less resistant to infection, setting the stage for periodontal disease.

Another reason people with diabetes are much more prone to periodontal disease is because they are prone to nutritional deficiencies. Diabetes is nutritional wasting disease, and affected individuals often have low blood levels of vitamin C, zinc, and other water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Zinc is necessary for tissue healing, and vitamin C is required for collagen formation. In fact, scurvy, the quintessential vitamin C deficiency disease, is characterized by bleeding gums and loose teeth.

And if you smoke, you are at even higher risk. Statistics show that diabetics who smoke and are 45 years or older are 20 times more likely to develop severe gum disease than people who don’t smoke.

The best way to lower your risk of developing periodontal disease is to brush and floss every day, take a good daily vitamin and mineral supplement, and visit your dentist on a regular basis.

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