Diabetes is wreaking havoc on our country. It is estimated that nearly 30 million adults and children in the United States have diabetes and that another 86 million are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This disease is also estimated to cost the United States $245 billion a year. With November being American Diabetes Awareness Month we thought it would be a good idea to highlight the often overlooked link between diabetes and gum disease.
Diabetes can cause severe damage to many different systems of your body including your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, and mouth. This is largely due to the heightened amount of glucose in the blood because your cells are not properly using insulin to break down the sugars. This heightened amount of sugar in the blood has been directly linked to gum disease for a few reasons.
First, diabetes actually causes the blood vessels to thicken which reduces the number of nutrients delivered to key parts of the body (such as the gums) in addition to reducing the amount of waste drawn from areas of the body. Secondly, the bacteria associated with gum disease thrive on sugar, and higher amounts of glucose in the blood is ideal for the bacteria to thrive. Couple this with a lack of nutrients going to the gums and you have the best place for bacteria to survive. Finally, smoking has been linked to an increased risk of both diabetes and gum disease. Smokers are five times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers, and diabetics who smoke have an even greater risk.
Being diabetic does not automatically mean that you will have gum disease. Diabetics that properly maintain their blood sugar levels have no greater risk of getting gum disease than those without diabetes. If you are already losing teeth due to gum disease, there are plenty of options out there for you. And here’s a little bit of good news: treating gum disease can reduce the cost of diabetes care by as much as 40%.