Gum Disease & Diabetes

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Gum Disease & Diabetes

Gum Disease & Diabetes

You might think that gum disease and diabetes are strange bedfellows, but in actual fact there is a proven causal link between untreated periodontitis and the onset or worsening of diabetes.

In fact, I’d go so far as to describe this as a two-way relationship – there is also evidence that untreated diabetes can trigger the onset or worsening of periodontitis. 

At their core, both periodontitis and diabetes are inflammatory conditions. If you have diabetes, or know someone who does, I’d strongly recommend that you consult a specialist about potential gum disease and the implications this will have. The earlier you can identify signs of gum disease and begin treatment, the less severe the consequences will be. 

In the meantime, though, let’s get to grips with why these two conditions are so strongly linked, and what we can do to minimise negative symptoms. 

RAGE receptors.

The cells in our gums have what is aptly called a RAGE receptor. This receptor is for advanced glycation end products – in other words, the result of high levels of sugars and protein combining. This occurs more often in diets high in red meats, dairy products, and oils, which is why I recommend a healthy diet rich in fresh whole foods. 

RAGE receptors are expressed when cells are dysfunctional; for example, in inflammatory conditions like diabetes or when there are tumours present. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes have a higher number of advanced glycation end products in their bloodstream. This means that the RAGE receptors inside the gum cells are activated and trigger an immune response. This immune response is what activates all the destructive symptoms of gum disease that I talked about in my last blog.

Can diabetes medication be reduced?

Many diabetic patients are shocked to hear that properly treating their periodontitis could result in reducing their reliance on medication to control their diabetes. 

This is because properly treating periodontitis results in easier glycaemic control. Not only does this reduce the risks associated with heart issues, it also means that symptoms of diabetes in general will be better controlled, and in some cases medication could even be reduced.

This is hugely exciting. Excellent dentistry doesn’t just focus on the aesthetic benefits of a beautiful and healthy smile, but on the psychological ones too. It’s no surprise that our physical health has a big impact on our mental health. In an age of expanding waistlines, increased sugar, and reduced physical activity, it’s more important than ever to look after ourselves properly – from the inside out. 

Tooth loss in untreated periodontitis of diabetic patients

Recently I had two lovely patients come to me at London Dental Specialists. Both patients were diabetic, under 30, and had referred themselves to me because of untreated periodontitis. Because many people don’t fully appreciate the link between the two conditions, these patients had been told that they didn’t need to worry, and that some deep cleaning from a periodontist would do the trick.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. The aim of my blog series, sharing real case studies and expert guidance, is to reassure anxieties around going to the dentist and give you full control over your smile. But it would be a disservice to my readers if I didn’t stress the importance of taking periodontitis seriously. 

Because these two patients had referred themselves several years after first experiencing symptoms of gum disease, and combined with the increased rate of deterioration due to their diabetes, deep cleaning wasn’t enough and tooth extraction was the inevitable outcome. 

How is gum disease treated in diabetic patients?

As discussed in my last blog, the key to treating gum disease is found in the depths of our gum pockets. In diabetic patients, it’s even more crucial that gum pockets are maintained at a healthy depth. 

The care of every patient should be approached uniquely and on an individual basis. However, if you have diabetes, your dental care provider should be much less tolerant of any deterioration in the gums or bone structure. Patients who have diabetes or who have untreated periodontitis are much more susceptible to the other, and will experience a rate of deterioration that is much more rapid than that seen in other patients. 

If you’re concerned about the topics explored in this blog, fear not! London Dental Specialists are offering free virtual consultations so that you can have your queries and concerns answered by an expert in no time at all. Complete the form below and we look forward to hearing from you! 


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