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Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

It is well documented that people who suffer from diabetes are more susceptible to developing infections than non-diabetes sufferers.  It is not widely known that periodontal disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes; particularly when the diabetes is not under proper control.

Periodontal disease (often called periodontitis and gum disease) is a progressive condition that often leads to tooth loss if treatment is not promptly sought.  Periodontal disease begins with a bacterial infection in the gingival tissue which surrounds the teeth.  As the bacteria colonize, the gum pockets become deeper, the gums recede as tissue is destroyed and the periodontitis eventually attacks the underlying bone tissue.

Diabetes is characterized by too much glucose (or sugar) in the blood.  Type II diabetics are unable to regulate insulin levels which means excess glucose stays in the blood.  Type I diabetics do not produce any insulin at all.  Diabetes is a serious condition which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Reasons for the Connection

Experts suggest the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease can worsen both conditions if either condition is not properly controlled.

Here are ways in which diabetes and periodontal disease are linked:

  • Increased blood sugar – Moderate and severe periodontal disease elevates sugar levels in the body, increasing the amount of time the body has to function with high blood sugar.  This is why diabetics with periodontitis have difficulty keeping control of their blood sugar.  In addition, the higher sugar levels found in the mouth of diabetics provide food for the very bacteria that worsen periodontal infections.
  • Blood vessel thickening – The thickening of the blood vessels is one of the other major concerns for diabetes sufferers.  The blood vessels normally serve a vital function for tissues by delivering nutrients and removing waste products.  With diabetes, the blood vessels become too thick for these exchanges to occur.  This means that harmful waste is left in the mouth and can weaken the resistance of gum tissue, which can lead to infection and gum disease.
  • Smoking – Tobacco use does a great deal of damage in the oral region.  Not only does tobacco use slow the healing process, it also vastly increases the chances of an individual developing periodontal disease.  For diabetics who smoke, the risk is exponentially greater.  In fact, diabetic smokers aged 45 and over are twenty times more likely to develop periodontal disease.
  • Poor oral hygiene – It is essential for diabetics to maintain excellent levels of oral health.  When daily brushing and flossing does not occur, the harmful oral bacteria can ingest the excess sugar between the teeth and colonize more freely below the gum line.  This exacerbates the metabolic problems that diabetes sufferers experience.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It is of paramount importance for people suffering from any type of diabetes to see the dentist at least twice yearly for checkups and professional cleanings.  Studies have shown that simple non-surgical periodontal treatments can lower the HbA1c (hemoglobin molecule blood test) count by as much as 20% in a six month period.

The dentist will use medical history, family history and dental X-rays to assess the risk factors for periodontal disease and determine the exact condition of the gums, teeth and underlying jawbone.  If necessary the dentist will work in conjunction with other doctors to ensure that both the diabetes and the gum disease are being managed and controlled as effectively as possible.

Non-surgical procedures performed by the dentist and dental hygienist include deep scaling, where calculus (tartar) will be removed from the teeth above and below the gumline, and root planing, where the root of the tooth is smoothed down to eliminate any remaining bacteria.  Oral antibiotics injected into the gum pockets have become a very efficient method of reducing pocket depth, bleeding, and inflammation.

Before and after periodontal treatment, the dentist and hygienist will recommend proper home care and oral maintenance.  Depending upon the circumstance, the dentist may prescribe a prescription mouthwash which serves to deter further bacteria colonization.

If you have questions or concerns about diabetes or periodontal disease, please ask your dentist.

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Testimonials

I have been a patient of Dr. Jeffrey Weiner since 1981. His work is impeccable. He is meticulous and results focused. He is not happy unless you are happy. I have referred many patients over the year to his office. His staff is always accommodating and friendly. I have had to call him and his son Dr. Jason Weiner on weekends and holidays over the years for a dental emergency and they have both responded to me quickly and with concern and advice. I receive compliments every day about my smile and it is because of Weiner Dental.

Mary P., Bensalem, PA

I know from experience that patients at Weiner Dental are very fortunate in knowing that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Dr. Jason Weiner is my primary dentist. He is not only adept in the painless and creative cosmetic work that he has performed on me, his easy manner and confident professionalism allays any anxiety that I may have about any dental problems. Having also been treated by Jason's father, Dr. Jeffrey Weiner, it is evident that a caring attitude and a healing aptitude has been passed on from father to son. That same demeanor seems to be instilled in everyone at Weiner Dental. I sincerely recommend the doctors and staff at Weiner Dental. I believe that they really care.

Edward M., Huntingdon Valley, PA

I have been going to Doctor Weiner for 30 years along with my wife and children. He has always given us the best of care. I do not know t oo many doctors who care so much that they call you at home to check on you. He cares about all people. When Dr. Weiner heard we were going to visit our daughter (who is a missionary in Jaraboca, in the Dominican Republic), he sent dental supplies for the folks down there. Most of them do not have the money for toothbrushes and toothpaste. If you could have seen the look of joy on their faces...it's hard to describe. And his son Jason is following in his father's footsteps. I not only feel like I have a great dentist but a good friend! Thanks Docs.

Robert B., Philadelphia, PA

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