12 Jul The Connection between Poor Oral Health and Diabetes
The human body is an enclosed environment that operates smoothly until foreign bacteria and viruses enter and threaten the balance of the system. There are limited ways in which such adversaries to health can enter the body: through the lungs, breaches (wounds) in the skin, and the mouth. Most people do not relate the mouth with interior infections, but the truth is that many billions of bacteria grow and thrive in the mouth, some of which are beneficial and some of which are detrimental.
Harmful bacteria and the toxic waste byproducts they create in the mouth normally breach the protective barriers of the body through the circulatory system. This normally occurs through poor oral health when bacteria are allowed to multiply causing gingivitis (swelling and bleeding gums), dental caries (tooth decay and cavities) and periodontitis (deterioration of the tissue surrounding the teeth). When gums bleed, tooth enamel is compromised, or bone is damaged from these dental problems, doorways are opened for harmful bacteria to enter into the circulatory system.
Diabetes is one of the health problems complicated by oral bacterium. It has been found that tissue inflammation caused by oral bacteria (both in the mouth and internally) weakens the body’s ability to utilize insulin and control of blood sugar. This has a cyclic effect since high blood sugar actually provides ideal conditions for oral bacteria to grow, thus compounding the problem.
Another cyclic effect occurs between diabetes and poor oral health conditions as well. Gum disease, particularly periodontitis, is exasperated by diabetes because the immune system is weakened which is used to fight oral infections. Therefore, people with diabetes must not only practice good oral hygiene to ward off gum disease and minimize bacterial risk, but they must also control their blood glucose levels which can increase gum disease risk significantly if they are unbalanced.
Those suffering from diabetes should, therefore, make frequent visits to their doctor to ensure that their glucose levels remain stable. However, they should also regularly schedule dental appointments to ensure their oral health remains stable as well. In either case, both diabetes health and oral health can be improved by brushing teeth twice daily for two or minutes each time and using dental floss before brushes to remove excess plaque and food particles.
This article is part of our blog series, “The Deadly Consequences of Poor Dental Care“
P. M. Preshaw, A. L. Alba, D. Herrera, S. Jepsen, A. Konstantinidis, K. Makrilakis, R. Taylor. “Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship.” Diabetologia, January 2012, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 21-31,