The Diabetes-Gum Disease Connection

Dr. John Luther

Dr. John Luther, D.D.S. & Founder

March 2, 2015

I was told the bacteria in my mouth is linked to my diabetes.  How is this possible?gum disease gingivitis

Diabetes and Gum Disease – Related?

Gum disease begins when plaque (that soft sticky substance that forms on the teeth) doesn’t get removed, either by brushing or flossing.   If not removed it will eventually harden into calculus, or what you may call tartar.

Gingivitis is the early stage of periodontal, or gum disease. Periodontal diseases are serious bacterial infections that destroy the attachment fibers that support bone and hold your teeth firmly in your mouth.  When this happens, your gums separate from your teeth and create pockets that hold more bacteria which create more plaque, thus starting a vicious cycle.  The more advanced the periodontal disease, the more advanced the infection and the deeper the pockets.

Okay.  So how does this relate to diabetes?

  • Diabetes makes fighting germs more difficult – even those living in the mouth
  • Individuals with diabetes are three to four times more likely to develop chronic gum infections
  • Gums that are inflamed may increase insulin resistance, thus aggravating blood sugar control

How do I know if I have Gum Disease?

Gum disease exhibits one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Gums that bleed when brushing teeth
  • Red, swollen and tender gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Mobile teeth
  • Pus between the gum and the tooth
  • A change in the way your teeth come together when biting
  • A change in the way your partials fit

Whenever there is bleeding in the mouth, the periodontal (gum) bacteria can easily enter the blood stream through the open pores in the inflamed gums and can be transmitted to other areas of the body. Combine this with diabetes and you now become more susceptible to:

  • oral infections ( red or white lesions inside cheeks; swelling; pus; pain when chewing hot/cold/sweets)
  • fungal infections  such as thrush (can manifest as white or red patches that become sore and ulcerated)
  • dry mouth (frequently aggravated by certain medications and reduced saliva flow which increases the risk of cavities and salivary gland infections)
  • poor healing (uncontrolled blood sugar can increase chance of infection after dental surgery)

Keeping your gums healthy helps you manage your diabetes; healthy gums is not a one-time event but should become an on-going goal for overall health.


Source: Wisconsin Dental Association Pamphlet – Risk Gum Disease and Diabetes Complications


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