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Diabetes has become a global epidemic with a rapidly increasing number of patients being diagnosed across the globe. It could be a sign of the changing food habits where fast food, sugary drinks, and processed meals have become more and more common. While diabetes is a big problem in developed nations like the U.S.A, it is developing nations like India and China that have a third of the world’s population between them — and an ever-increasing thirst for fast food is fast making them the epicenter of this diabetic pandemic.
So what does diabetes have to do with your dental health?
A whole lot as it turns out. Diabetes has an extremely close relationship with the teeth and can both affect the health of the oral tissues and be affected by their health in return.
Diabetes And Gum Health
The strongest relationship between diabetes and oral tissues is seen in the gums. These seemingly insignificant pink tissues surrounding the teeth can actually add up to a lot of surface area when taken together, about the size of your fist.
Gums can become inflamed due to poor oral hygiene and develop "pockets" where harmful bacteria thrive and further increase the process of inflammation. As a result, inflammatory cells and products are released all over the body.
One of the effects that these cells have in the body is to affect the receptors involved in transporting sugar from the bloodstream into the various organs and tissues to be used as an energy source. By hampering this transport of glucose, the inflammatory cells originating from gum disease can directly worsen the most common reason for the development of diabetes.
What is even more troubling is that the chronic nature of gum disease makes it more likely to affect the long-term control of diabetes as measured by the HbA1c levels. These levels are the most accurate predictors of health in a diabetic patient.
This relationship also works the other way round. Diabetic individuals have a compromised immune response to infection and this is why they are prone to the rapid spread of even minor infections. The bacteria which cause gum disease are present in the mouth in small numbers in almost everyone. For these harmful bacteria to thrive, their numbers must be significant, and they need to be met with poor oral hygiene and a compromised immune system.
A diabetic individual may have only mildly poor oral hygiene but yet suffer from severe gum disease because the body’s immune system is not able to fight off these harmful bacteria, allowing them to increase in number and cause rampant gum disease.
Of course, the caveat here is that even a poorly controlled diabetic individual needs to have the presence of harmful bacteria caused by poor oral hygiene for the disease to spread. If they are able to practice immaculate oral hygiene then they are not going to be affected by gum disease at all.