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Tuesday, 23 August, 2011, 3:20 ( 1:20 GMT )
Link Between Gum Disease and Diabetes Control
11/01/2011 17:51:00
By Dr. Monder Zbaeda

Treating serious gum disease (Periodontitis) in diabetics can help to lower their blood sugar levels, a new study has found. Periodontal diseases may be classified as those infections which affect the bone holding the teeth in place, and the gums.

Periodontal disease is one of the lesser-known complications that can affect patients with diabetes. It is estimated that a third of all diabetics suffer from periodontitis at some stage of their disease.

The symptoms of gum disease as a result of diabetes may manifest themselves individually or in groups. To obtain an accurate diagnosis, it is necessary to consult a dental health expert.

The symptoms may include bleeding in the mouth after brushing and/or flossing, swollen tender gums, gum recession and loose teeth.

Edinburgh University scientists have found reducing gum inflammation in people with diabetes can help minimise complications with the condition.

It is thought when bacteria infect the mouth causing inflammation the chemical changes reduce effectiveness of insulin and raise the levels of blood sugar. Treatment to reduce inflammation may therefore help reduce blood sugar.

When diabetes is poorly managed, it can lead to periodontal diseases in both children and adults. It has been recorded as affecting children as young as six.

The poor control increases the glucose levels in the mouth and thus encourages the growth of bacteria that causes these diseases.

When a body is suffering from diabetes, the structure of the blood vessels is altered. This may affect the efficiency the blood flow, and in turn may weaken the bone and the gums, leaving them more prone to infections.

The findings are published as part of the international Cochrane Collaboration. The team which includes researchers from UCL Eastman Dental Institute, Peninsula Dental School and Ottawa University, said their findings highlighted the need for doctors and dentists to work together in the treatment of people with diabetes.

This recent research supports previous studies stating that there may be a link between serious gum disease and diabetes. It also highlights the important role dentists can play in managing diabetes as gum disease is very treatable. Following an assessment, and depending on the severity of the disease, a variety of techniques may be employed.

These can include plaque removal, medication, surgery, dental implants, and soft-tissue grafts. It must be emphasised however that the most important aspect of diabetes management is the use of insulin, drugs and diet to control blood sugar levels.

Unfortunately, the scope of diabetes to cause other oral problems is not limited to gum disease. Diabetes may also cause thrush through high glucose levels in the mouth. Dry mouth and all of the related problems that occur with it may also affect patients with diabetes.

This further increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

An appropriate dental health programme including regular brushing and flossing can go a long way to preventing oral problems associated with diabetes. Controlling your blood sugar well will also help to reduce the risk of developing periodontitis. Also, periodontitis can work the other way: at an advanced presentation it may actually increase blood sugar, putting a diabetic at risk of further complications.

About The writer
The writer is Part-Time Associate Dentist/ Special Interest in Prosthodontics (Private Practice). He contributed this article to The Tripoli Post: mondermzbaeda[at]gmail.com
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