Most American adults have at least mild gum disease, and your risk is dramatically elevated if you have diabetes. Likewise, a serious gum infection can make it tough to control your blood glucose levels, increasing your risk of diabetic complications. Excellent oral hygiene is important for everyone, but for diabetics, it is absolutely essential. Here is what you should know.
Why Does Diabetes Increase the Risk of Gum Disease?
When your blood glucose is high, your body has a harder time fighting off the bacteria that are responsible for infection. Gum disease is a bacterial infection that inflames the gums. The earliest stage is gingivitis, with such telltale signs as tenderness, swelling, and bleeding during brushing and flossing. Untreated gingivitis can become periodontitis, in which the bacteria invade the jawbone and tooth roots, putting you at risk for losing teeth. Gum disease will progress in everyone over time, but those with high blood glucose have more difficulty holding the infection at bay.
How Does Gum Disease Affect Diabetes?
You probably already know that when you’re sick, it is more difficult to control your blood glucose. That’s because blood glucose levels tend to rise as part of the body’s immune response to infection. Gum disease is a chronic infection that can quickly lead to a self-replicating cycle in those with diabetes. As your blood glucose rises, it is harder for your body to fight the infection. But as the infection takes hold, your blood glucose levels continue to go up.
To minimize your risks, practice scrupulous oral hygiene. Every day, brush your teeth at least twice and floss once. Visit your dentist twice a year.
Work with your doctor to keep your blood glucose levels within recommended parameters. Eat a healthy diet with whole grains and fresh vegetables, and limit your carb intake. Get plenty of exercise. Talk to your doctor as well as your dentist to remain up to date on the latest advice for both blood glucose control and oral health.
Gum disease and diabetes are closely linked, but you do not have to fall victim to the cycle. Take a proactive approach to your oral health, as well as your overall health and wellbeing. With hard work, you can remain fit and healthy for many years to come.