Dr. Shannon Mills, a scientist and vice president of professional relations with Northeast Delta Dental, said research suggests a two-way relationship between serious periodontal (or gum) disease and diabetes.
Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to severe gum disease, but gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. People with diabetes tend to develop periodontal disease earlier in life, and more severely. Instead of losing their teeth from gum disease in their 60s, they might begin losing teeth in their mid-40s. Mills said that smokers with diabetes are especially at risk for gum disease and tooth loss and that stopping smoking can help in the treatment of both diabetes and gum disease.
"It's the single-most important thing one can do," he said about the importance of smoking cessation on oral health.
According to the ADA, people with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums. If blood glucose levels are not properly controlled, people are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control. Oral problems associated with diabetes can also include thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness.
Mills said that regular dental checkups and examinations are critical:
"If you have diabetes, tell your dentist," he said. "If your dentist sees gum disease developing, he will likely ask if you have diabetes. If not, check with your doctor to be tested."