If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you are familiar with how the disease can harm important systems in your body, causing problems with your vision, heart, kidneys, and nervous system. But did you know that diabetics also run a much higher than normal risk of developing periodontal gum disease in the mouth? This is especially so if you are a smoker.
Periodontal disease results from untreated gingivitis and is a condition in which the area around the tooth becomes infected, with the infection spreading into the surrounding soft tissues and bone that anchors the tooth.
Why diabetics are at a higher risk
People with diabetes have a decreased ability to fight off bacterial infections, and the presence of periodontal disease makes it more difficult for the diabetic to control blood sugar levels. This creates a slippery slope effect, as the presence of excess sugars in the blood provide the bacteria with more of their favorite food source, causing them to spread. The disease worsens, and the process starts all over again.
Diabetes also causes the blood vessels to thicken. Blood vessels are responsible for carrying nutrients to soft tissues as well as removing waste products. In diabetics this process is slowed down, making the gums and surrounding bones more prone to infection.
Smoking and periodontal disease
The damaging effects of smoking are not just limited to your heart and lungs. Smoking also worsens periodontal disease by further depressing the immune system, making it more difficult to fight off infection. On top of that, it also compromises your ability to heal once infection has taken root.
Smokers have over three times the chance of developing periodontal disease as do non-smokers. Smoking also greatly increases the chances of tooth loss in those with periodontal disease. These chances worsen if you smoke and also have diabetes. In fact, if you are a diabetic smoker over the age of 45, you are 20 times more likely to get periodontal disease than a non-diabetic who has never smoked.
Steps to avoid these problems
The smallest step that will produce the biggest result will be to stop smoking, if you haven’t already. This immediately improves your control over your blood glucose levels, as smokers have been shown to have increased insulin resistance when compared to non-smokers.
The second step to take is to visit your dentist to receive a thorough checkup and a preventative plan to treat / prevent periodontal disease. Your primary dentist may refer you to a periodontist from a clinic like Periodontal Specialists, and they can help with treatment of gum diseases.