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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 t 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.  Antibiotics may be applied to the gum pockets to promote healing.

Before and after periodontal treatment, the dentist and hygienist will recommend proper home care and oral maintenance as well as prescribing prescription mouthwashes which serve 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

"Dr. Bohlke deserves more than 5 stars. He has been my dentist for the past 18 years and I can say there has never been a bad experience. His attention is always on the patient and the patient's comfort. He is so gentle that I usually have no pain at all. He clearly knows you individually and you can tell that you are getting an excellent level of dental work as well as the high level of genuine care. I just wish I had more family members so that I could insist they all see him."

Julie Johnson Anaheim, California

"I moved out to Long Beach from Michigan and for about a year I would still fly home to see my dentist, as I was paranoid to try a new one. WELL... I needed something done that would take more than one visit and my dentist in Michigan said I would need to find someone in Long Beach to handle it. I was sad... and very nervous. However, after meeting once with Dr. Bohlke, I was completely put to ease, and I no longer have to fly home for cleanings.

The office is very clean, organized, quiet and peaceful... the perfect combo for a dental office. Dr. Bohlke takes great care and time with his patients, and his assistant Nicole is just the sweetest ever. I look forward to my visits and HIGHLY recommend Dr. Bohlke for all dental needs."

Brittany Poston Long Beach, California

"I just changed my insurance companies and had to find a new dentist, and was lucky to find Dr. Bohlke. He is the most informative, attentive dentist I have ever had the pleasure of being a patient of. You do not feel like you are just another number and being pushed in and out the door. He takes his time, which I love, as he is a perfectionist. He takes great care in making sure that his patient's experience is the best possible. I have been in to see him twice and my son has seen him once, and I can tell you even after the first visit I felt complete trust with him. He will not recommend work you don't need. Love him!"

Julie Monical Long Beach, California

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