Diabetes and Your Oral Health

There is a sharp increase in diabetes diagnosed in the US yearly. Diabetes effects over 25 million Americans today.  With our current diet of processed sugars these numbers will only increase.   Just this past year, I was diagnosed as having metabolic disorder.   So basically that means that not only do I have diabetes, but it also leads to increased cholesterol, triglycerides, and many others.

I have diabetes running in my family.  This means that there was a good chance I would develop it at some point in my life. Of course it did not  have to be at age 43.  My diet and lack of exercise had something to do with it. 

Uncontrolled diabetes leads to a deadly combination of events that damages the gums surrounding the tooth and this leads to teeth loss.  Let’s look at how diabetes forms.  

First let’s see how the insulin pathway works.  When you eat, the body creates insulin. This insulin allows the cells to absorb the sugar that is flowing around in the blood.  Cells can utilize that sugar to produce energy or store it as fat. Unfortunately insulin also blocks the signals to the brain telling it that it is full. So that is why people addicted to sugar have cravings. Years and years of over eating or improper eating  causes the cells of  the body to get desensitized to insulin. That means your pancreas has to make more and more insulin to ensure that the body’s sugar is routed in the right direction. In the meanwhile, this causes cravings to go up even more because the signal telling your brain that you are full is blocked. Years and years of increased production of  insulin causes the cells of the pancreas to die.   At some point, the pancreas just cannot keep up with the insulin needs of the body. That is type 2 diabetes.

There is a direct link between uncontrolled diabetes and gum disease. When the sugar inside the blood is higher than normal, it leaks into the saliva. This sugar is used by the bacteria to replicate and increase in numbers. Next, diabetes causes the fibers within your gums to break. The gums open up and the bacteria slide down into them. Finally, diabetes leads to thickening of blood vessels. These thickened blood vessels  lower  the ability of the gums to resist  infections.   

So while there is no evidence that shows that individuals with controlled diabetes have any higher risk of gum disease, diabetes leads to increased number of bacteria in your mouth, opens your gums helping bacteria to slide deep into them, and lowers the body’s ability to fight infections. 

You can prevent gum problems with daily oral care and controlling your diabetes.