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A two-way street: periodontal disease and diabetes
The connection between diabetes and gum disease has long been known, but in the past it was thought that it was mostly diabetes that affected their periodontal health, and not the other way around. Patients who are diabetic are at much greater risk for developing periodontal diseases than those who are not, and those who have less control over the fluctuations in their glycemic levels experience more severe gum issues that do not respond as well to attempted treatments.
However, as more becomes known about the links between oral health and overall health, it’s becoming clear that that periodontal disease can affect patients with diabetes as much as diabetes can affect patients with periodontal diseases. Those who are diabetic need to see the dentist frequently to ensure that any inflammation or infection is treated promptly and not allowed to get out of control. Bacteria that may enter the bloodstream from the mouth can lead to increased insulin resistance, causing long-term treatment problems for diabetes management.
Of course, the opposite problem still holds true, and can cause a dangerous cycle if not carefully monitored. With diabetes being such a high risk factor for many kinds of periodontal disease, it’s important that glucose levels be strictly maintained in order to reduce the risk of a patient developing severe periodontal problems. Those who have poor glycemic control will likely have more trouble responding to treatments that could usually help relieve periodontal diseases.
Although these issues apply whether the patient has Type I or Type II diabetes, the increase of obesity-related Type II diabetes cannot be ignored as a more general risk factor. Even now, Type II diabetes represents nearly all cases of the condition. With obesity on the rise, we’re much more likely to start seeing increased incidences of both late-onset diabetes and, in turn periodontal disease in patients who have trouble maintaining a healthy weight.
As with all ongoing health issues, management is key, and in this particular case it is clear that dental health professionals will be playing a major role. Oral health is no longer regarded as an isolated entity, but rather an important factor and indicator in overall health. As more and more connections are made between oral health issues like periodontal disease and overall conditions like diabetes, proper and regular dental care will become an even more essential part of a comprehensive prevention and treatment program.