Understanding the Link Between Diabetes and Gum Disease

Mar 13, 2024
 Understanding the Link Between Diabetes and Gum Disease
You might not see the link between diabetes and gum disease, yet they’re closely connected. Their influence accelerates both diseases, potentially affecting your overall health and well-being.

Diabetes and gum disease may not seem to have much in common, but they share a close relationship that impacts your overall health and well-being. Each escalates the risk and increases the severity of the other. 

If you have diabetes, your risk of developing gum disease is three times higher than people who don’t have diabetes. Your gum disease also has an increased chance of progressing, raising the potential for tooth loss.

Roy Hudgens, DMD, and the team at Hudgens Dental in Charleston, South Carolina, offer periodontal disease treatments that restore the health of your gums. As they treat gum disease, you can depend on them to discuss your risk for diabetes and recommend specialized care if needed. 

Exploring the two-way relationship 

Here’s a look at the impact between gum disease and diabetes: 

People with gum disease (but not diabetes)

Even if you don’t have diabetes, gum disease raises your blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c).

People with diabetes

Gum disease is a common problem in people with diabetes and an expected complication when blood sugar isn’t controlled. 

 When gum disease develops, it causes the same problems (raising blood sugar and HbA1c), making it challenging to manage your diabetes and increasing the risk of diabetes-related health complications.

 In addition to contributing to gum disease, high blood sugar causes health conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol 
  • Diabetic foot ulcers
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart disease and heart attacks
  • Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy) and vision loss

Treating your gum disease significantly reduces body-wide inflammation, lowers your blood sugar and HbA1c, and makes it easier to control your blood sugar.

Connections between diabetes and gum disease

Diabetes results in several physical changes that increase your risk for gum disease:

 High sugar in saliva

People with diabetes have more sugar (glucose) in their saliva. Higher sugar encourages bacterial growth in your mouth, leading to decay, inflammation, and gum disease. 

 Gum disease magnifies the problem because it increases your blood sugar levels. Without treatment, this can turn into an ongoing cycle of progressive gum disease and poor diabetes control.

Increased inflammation

Gum disease and diabetes both cause chronic inflammation. Unfortunately, inflammation arising from one exacerbates the other.

What’s worse is that diabetes intensifies your body’s inflammatory response, affecting your whole-body health and accelerating the progression of gum disease.

Slow healing

High blood sugar slows healing while increasing your risk of developing an infection. Mild gingivitis (gum inflammation) that might heal quickly is more likely to progress to full-blown gum disease.

 Lack of saliva (dry mouth)

Diabetes often affects the salivary glands. As a result, they produce less saliva, causing dry mouth. A dry mouth feels uncomfortable and can make it challenging to swallow and talk. It also affects your dental health.

 Saliva is essential for digesting carbohydrates, clearing away food particles, and preventing bacteria from growing and producing the acids that erode your enamel. That’s why a dry mouth causes tooth decay and gum disease. 

Preventing and managing diabetes

Managing your blood sugar with diet, exercise, and weight loss is essential if you have diabetes. However, if you're not diagnosed with diabetes, consider the following risk factors that put you at risk:

  • Developing gum disease
  • Having a family history of Type 2 diabetes
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Being overweight or obese
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking

 If you have any of these factors, consult with your physician to be sure your blood sugar is healthy.

Maintaining your dental health

Maintaining excellent dental health prevents gum disease and helps manage diabetes. Optimal dental hygiene includes brushing and flossing twice daily and scheduling routine checkups with our dental team.

Call Hudgens Dental or book online today to schedule a dental visit.