Diabetes & Dental Health

Recently, news of “smart” insulin made international headlines. It’s a fascinating development that may change how often diabetes I patients need to take insulin.

To be clear, there are two kinds of diabetes. Type I is when the body’s immune system kills off insulin-making cells, whereas type II occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or resists its effects. While either type may require insulin therapy, type II often responds to lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise.

periodontal biofilm Other, even seemingly small, conditions may be part of the larger problem, as in the notable connection between diabetes and periodontal health. One study from late last year found that more than 50% of diabetic (type I) children considered in the research also had significant gum disease.

Too often, periodontal disorders are overlooked as contributors to larger problems. However, scientists routinely find pathogens responsible for gum disease in areas far from the mouth. Such research has established strong links between perio problems and other inflammatory conditions, including heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, and, yes, diabetes.

The crucial link appears to be inflammation, which starts in the gums, then spreads. Dr. Mercola notes that there is

a 700 percent higher incidence of type 2 diabetes among those with gum disease, courtesy of the inflammatory effects of unbalanced microflora in your mouth. But how does the microflora in your mouth cause inflammation, you might ask?

When the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease enter into your circulatory system, it causes your liver to release C-reactive proteins, which has inflammatory effects in the entire circulatory system.

Indeed, gum disease and diabetes appear intricately linked. As one recent paper described the vicious circle,

Diabetes is a major risk factor for periodontitis; susceptibility to periodontitis is increased by approximately threefold in people with diabetes. There is a clear relationship between degree of hyperglycemia and severity of periodontitis. The mechanisms that link these two conditions are not completely understood, but involve aspects of immune functioning, cytokines and metalloproteinases biology.

In the light of this and other research, periodontal therapy is increasingly considered an important part of diabetes management, helping improve and stabilize blood sugar levels.

bone loss due to gum disease

Bone loss due to gum disease

It’s important to be aware that periodontal therapy won’t make your diabetes disappear. It will improve your health. Fortunately, gum disease can be treated effectively and non-invasively if caught early. Patients will want to first “get back to basics” by both addressing common triggers of gum disease – tobacco use, chronic stress, unhealthful diet and poor oral hygiene – and boosting your body’s natural ability to fight off infection. Appropriate supplements and homeopathic remedies may also help. (The particulars depend on the specific situation. With those therapies, there’s no truly effective one-size-fits-all approach.) In extreme conditions, periodontitis may require deep cleaning of tissues.

Treatment shouldn’t be put off. The ultimate result of gum disease left unchecked? Bone loss, unstable teeth and, finally, tooth loss.

Obviously, that’s not something you want to take lightly.

Biofilm image by Mark Bonner DMD, x-ray by Benard bill5

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