Diabetes and oral health

Diabetes, Gum Disease and its Effects on Your Overall Health

I Have Diabetes

I don’t want my patients to panic and think that I am leaving dentistry and going into general medicine. All that being said, I must have an awareness of the presence of diabetes and how the patient deals with it. First, I will explain why the patient came to me and then why his diabetes impacts my treatment.

This gentleman is a new patient in our practice. In fact, he has not seen a dentist in over 30 years. His last visit occurred when he removed his wisdom teeth as a young man. Over that time, nothing ever bothered him, so there were no dental visits. Fast forward to 2022, and a loose tooth on his lower left side was the reason for his visit. Not only was the tooth loose, but pain accompanied the mobility of the tooth.

Developing Gum Disease

Teeth usually sit in solid bone and healthy pink gums. The solid bone and soft tissue around the tooth anchor the tooth in the mouth firmly. The excellent and sturdy attachment of the tooth to the bone is necessary for the chewing process. The grinding pressure that the teeth bring to the chewing process is only possible with a firm anchor. Back teeth are big and have multiple roots. These teeth bring the most chewing force in the eating process and therefore the gum and bone is quite strong in this area of the mouth

If a patient develops gum disease, then a deterioration process begins. The healthy gums and bone start to break down, and ultimately bone disease follows. The tooth slowly loosens due to the disintegration of the bone by the disease. Sometimes abscesses develop, and pain can occur.

Adding Diabetes to The Mix

The process that I just explained can happen to anyone who does not follow a regimen of regular care and good home care. When we add diabetes to the mix, these events can go into high gear. Patients who have diabetes often heal slower than those people with diabetes heal—those patients with uncontrolled diabetes struggle when they get infections. Therefore to help with gum disease, good blood sugar control is essential.

The Relationship Between Diabetes and Gum Disease

This relationship between diabetes and gum disease is not a one-way street.

Research has shown that gum disease affects blood sugar control also. Once we eliminate the gum disease in a patient, one side benefit is improved blood sugar control. Patients with diabetes often struggle with proper control even though they do everything right. The hidden factor which hinders excellent control is gum disease. My patient did not have his sugars in check and believes that this is normal. I pointed out that once we fix his gums, we hope to improve his blood sugar numbers.

Oral Health is Part of Overall Health

Patients and even dentists tend to think of the teeth as living in their own little world independent of the rest of the body. To think this way is incorrect and leads many to the wrong conclusions or answers.

Oral health is part and parcel of full-body health.

Often when we fix one problem we solve many problems for the patient. Diabetes and heart disease are closely connected to gum issues. Gum disease in and of itself can not cause a fatal event, but we all know that heart disease is the number one killer.

 If it has been a long time since your teeth were checked or you see some teeth not looking or feeling a little different, please don’t wait too long. Please call Joyce at 440-892-1810, and schedule a visit. Your oral health and general well-being may depend on your phone call. I look forward to meeting you

Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD is an Ohio licensed general dentist and is on the staff of Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine.

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