Diabetes – The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

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By P., Piero D.D.S.

Diabetes affects about 24 million Americans or about 8% of the population. It is a disease that is characterized by high levels of blood sugar caused by malfunctioning insulin production. An insulin resistant individual becomes diabetic when the pancreas can no longer put out sufficient insulin to lower the blood sugar and the organ becomes exhausted.

The pancreas is controlled by hormonal feedback mechanisms. Acute and chronic infections create hormonal chaos in the body. Periodontal disease is the most widespread infectious disease on the planet, consequently provokes a great deal of chaos.

The sugars found in the mouth aid in gum disease. The constant introduction and presence of sugar in the mouth (like a sippy cup with juice), feed the bacteria that leads to periodontal disease.

Blood vessels in a diabetic are also compromised. They thicken and slow the delivery of oxygen to the extremities. Likewise, they slow the removal of waste from these tissues. All of which lowers the defense to infection, including periodontal infection.

A Dentistry Today publication detailed the link between periodontal disease and diabetes. Those with diabetes have more severe periodontal issues and those with the oral disease have a more difficult time controlling their diabetes. The link is found in both adults and children. About 50 percent of children have periodontal disease according to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University Medical Center. Unfortunately the symptoms of the disease are often not noticeable until the disease is advanced. A dentist can diagnose the disease in the early stages, prior to parents realizing their children have it. Thus, it is important that children with diabetes receive regular oral check ups. It is recommended that diabetics who have periodontal disease should be treated for the periodontal infection.

A study at the School of Dental Medicine at the University at Buffalo found that obesity is significantly related to periodontal disease through the pathway of insulin resistance. Sara Grossi, director of the UB Periodontal Disease Research Center and lead author of the study said, “Now we see a relationship between obesity, insulin resistance and periodontal disease in a large, population-based cohort. This relationship is significant because obesity is an important risk factor for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.” (http://www.sdm.buffalo.edu/news/20000408_obesity.html)

Not only is treating the periodontal disease good for the diabetic, it also can save money. A three year study showed that the medical costs for diabetics went down when their gum disease was treated. This study looked at medical claims for patients with diabetes and periodontal disease and found patients with diabetes and who treated their periodontal disease saved almost $2500, compared to those who did not treat their oral issues.

Today, adults and children with diabetes have a better chance of keeping this disease under control. Besides diet, it also takes diligence and thoroughness in oral health.

Dr. Piero, a Holland, MI dentist for over thirty years, is the inventor of Dental Air Force® (www.dentalairforce.com). Articles published are on periodontal health related to heart disease, respiratory health, diabetes, strokes, and other systemic diseases. He is the Executive Editor for Journal of Experimental Dental Science, a contributing author to Hospital Infection Control: Clinical Guidelines and soon-to-be published book, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

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