Since oral health is directly linked to diabetes, it's important to maintain healthy gums and dental care if you are diabetic. Diabetes can initiate the development of gum (periodontal) disease, putting one at risk for further complications and causing an influx in health care costs if left untreated.
There are two types of diabetes along with gestational diabetes, which is developed during pregnancy when blood sugar levels become too high.
Type 1 diabetes is when the body destroys the production of insulin, while type 2 diabetes produces insulin that is then produced in insufficient quantity, or is not used in a correct fashion by the body.
Diabetes occurs when the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels. While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, type 2 diabetes can.
Since blood sugar levels are unstable for a diabetic, dental problems such as gum disease, split between two stages — mild gum (gingivitis) disease, and severe gum (periodontal) disease — can occur.
Diabetes thickens blood vessels after impairing white blood cells, causing the flow of nutrients and waste to slow to and from body tissues, including the mouth. Since periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, and the diabetic's ability to fight infections is greatly reduced, gum disease causes severe complications when left untreated.
A recent three-year study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia involved diabetes patients who were then placed in either a control group (no treatment) or were randomly selected to receive periodontal therapy.
Receiving treatment within the first year for periodontal disease, and undergoing maintenance for the next two years, those who underwent periodontal therapy were hospitalized less than those who were in the control group with no treatment. The total cost for medical care, hospital admission and doctor visits per patient was an average of more than $1,800 less than the control group, with the treatment group constituting for 33 percent less admissions to the hospital than those diabetics that received no treatment for gum disease.
Diabetics suffering from periodontitis are more likely to suffer from complications of poor glycemic (sugar) control than those who have good oral health maintenance. Without glycemic control, the risk for heart attack or stroke, which are linked to diabetes, increases.
When the bacteria caused by periodontal disease in the mouth enters the circulatory system, the body is burdened by an increased inflammatory response in diabetics. This added stress on key organs working to fight the infection, and chronic inflammation can also cause those who are seemingly healthy to develop diabetes.
Not only does a diabetic's health benefit from healthy gums and teeth, avoiding complications that diabetics are prone to such as heart attack or stroke can keep one's health insurance lower after treatment for periodontal disease.
The key to an advantageous and brighter life as a diabetic starts with a healthier smile.