I asked Helen, a patient of mine in her late 70’s who regularly reads my “Ask The Gentle Dentist” column what she would like to see in my June Ask the Dentist column.  She thought it would be a good idea for me to write an article on the Periodontal Disease / Gum Disease.  This was inspired because a friend of hers was recently diagnosed with adult onset diabetes and Periodontal and Gum Disease.  I posted an article some time ago on the co-relationship between Periodontal and Gum Disease and other systemic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.  Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and Periodontal Disease / Gum Disease all create inflammation in the body and are potential agents that can cause heart disease.

There is accumulating evidence and data that shows that the bacteria that causes Periodontal Disease / Gum Disease gets into the blood system creating chronic inflammation.  This chronic inflammation activates a protein called C-Reactive Protein into the blood eventually creating a higher risk of stroke, heart attacks by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) in coronary (heart) and carotid arteries.

Diabetes is a growing problem that now affects over 7% of Americans and is still on the rise.  In fact, in the 1980s there were 5 million people diagnosed and now there are over 23 million. About 30% of diabetics are not even diagnosed. The most common reason why there is such a rapid rise in the incidence is because of the sedentary lifestyle that Americans are living.  Fast foods, high sugar drinks, lack of exercise has created an obese population. In fact the CDC states that over 26% of Americans are obese (120% of normal body weight)!!   Obviously watching diet and exercise can go a long way to a better, healthier body.

What is diabetes?  Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone made naturally in the body.  When carbohydrates are eaten the body rapidly breaks it down to simple sugars which are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream.  Insulin is then released in response to the high levels of blood sugar.  Insulin allows the sugars to penetrate into the cells of the body when it is needed.  Diabetes is therefore the inability of the cells to absorb the blood sugar due to a lack of this insulin

There are three types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 is where the body’s immune system actually destroys the cells that make insulin.  This is genetic in nature and is usually diagnosed at an early age. It is also the most severe form of diabetes.
  • Type 2 is also known as adult onset diabetes.  In this situation the body doesn’t create enough insulin.  90-95% of diabetics are type 2, but this number is rising at an alarming rate.
  • Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy, but after birth the body rebounds back to health.

Diabetics are at risk for blindness, Stroke, amputation of toes and legs, Heart attack, numbness, kidney failure, early death, and Periodontal Disease / Gum Disease. A well controlled diabetic who exercises and eats properly has the same risk of these problems as a healthy individual.  It is therefore important to take medicines along with diet and exercise to live a somewhat normal life.

Periodontal (gum) disease is described as a bacterial infection and inflammation of the bone and soft tissues that hold the teeth into the jaw.  This infection usually is not painful or sometimes not easily seen without a proper diagnosis by your dentist.  The bone around you teeth that is dissolved from the disease will never come back but with proper treatments the bone level can stabilize.

You know you have Periodontal Disease / Gum Diseaseif you have bad breath, your gums bleed when brushing or flossing and/or your teeth are loose and shift around.    Since it is usually not painful (like most chronic diseases) you may have Periodontal Disease / Gum Disease and not even know about it.

Periodontal Disease / Gum Disease is considered to have a bidirectional relationship with diabetes.  In other words diabetes affects the severity and complications of Periodontal Disease / Gum Disease and the periodontal disease affects diabetes and the ability to control blood sugar levels.  The National Diabetic Association states this and research supports this claim.

The bottom line is that if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes you are at risk for Periodontal Disease / Gum Disease.  If you have a difficult time in regulating your blood sugar then a periodontal evaluation is critical so that you not only can save your teeth, but potentially save your life.

Do me a favor and mention this article to your physician so that they can also be informed and team up with dentist’s to combat this serious problem.

For more information on this please visit the American Heart Association www.AmericanHeart.org website.

If you have questions or comments you can email me at DrAntolak@TheGentleDentist.com or phone us at (586)247-3500

If you have diabetes and desire a free dental consultation please give us a call.  Our dental office is located in Shelby Township, Michigan (Macomb County) at 22 Mile and Hayes.

About The Author

Dr. Robert Antolak, DDS graduated from the University of Michigan in 1987 with his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. He is dedicated to providing the highest quality and appropriate cosmetic, sedation and general dentistry in the most comfortable and gentle way possible. Because being a dentist has been a lifelong dream, Dr. Antolak has a passion for the profession. He enjoys helping people feel better about their smiles and therefore their self-image with dental implant and cosmetic dentistry. His Dental Practice is located in Shelby Township, Michigan.  For more information visit The Gentle Dentist.