If you have diabetes, you already know that the disease can cause a lot of serious complications throughout your body. Complications of the eyes and feet are well-known, but your mouth is also in danger due to diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, a painful and potentially serious condition. Here's what you need to know.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is inflammation and infection of your gum tissue. It's caused by poor oral hygiene, more specifically, by the plaque that is left on your teeth and gums if you don't brush and floss often enough or thoroughly enough. The bacteria in the plaque irritates your gums and leads to gum disease. This makes your gums red, swollen, and painful.
What does diabetes have to do with gum disease?
Diabetes is one of the main risk factors for gum disease, and diabetics are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop gum disease than non-diabetics are. Your risk is greater if your blood sugar levels aren't well controlled. This is because the increased sugar levels increase inflammation throughout your body, and your gums are no exception. The sugars also make it harder for your gum tissues to heal themselves, making them more susceptible to disease.
Diabetics also have an increased risk of a serious gum disease called periodontitis; it affects the ligaments and bones beneath the teeth in addition to the gums, and can lead to tooth loss. Studies have the shown that having diabetes for a long time or not controlling your blood sugars well makes you more likely to suffer from this advanced gum disease.
How can diabetics protect their gums?
Diabetics can protect their gums by controlling their diabetes since high blood sugar levels are responsible for the increased risk. If you're having trouble controlling your diabetes, talk to your doctor.
How do dentists treat gum disease?
Dentists treat gum disease by thoroughly cleaning your teeth and gums. This procedure is called scaling and root planing. Plaque will be scraped off of your teeth, gum line, and beneath your gum line. Your dentist will numb your gums before starting this process, so don't worry about pain. This numbing can be done with injectable anesthetics, but if you don't like needles, ask your dentist to use anesthetic gel, instead.
Gum disease is a serious concern for diabetics, but you can minimize your risk by controlling your blood sugar levels. If your gums are red and painful, make an appointment with your dentist since you could have gum disease. Fortunately, a dentist trained in pain free dentistry might be able to make the experience more pleasant.