Like other complications of diabetes, gum disease is linked to diabetic control. People
with poor blood sugar control get gum disease more often and more severely, and they lose
more teeth than do persons with good control. In fact, people whose diabetes is well
controlled have no more periodontal disease than persons without diabetes. Children with
IDDM (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) are also at risk for gum problems. Good
diabetic control is the best protection against periodontal disease.
Studies show that controlling blood sugar levels lowers the risk
of some complications of diabetes, such as eye and heart disease and nerve damage.
Scientists believe many complications, including gum disease, can be prevented with good
Blood Vessel Changes. Thickening of blood
vessels is a complication of diabetes that may increase risk for gum disease. Blood
vessels deliver oxygen and nourishment to body tissues, including the mouth, and carry
away the tissues' waste products. Diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken, which slows
the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes. This can weaken the resistance of
gum and bone tissue to infection.
Bacteria. Many kinds of bacteria (germs)
thrive on sugars, including glucose -- the sugar linked to diabetes. When diabetes is
poorly controlled, high glucose levels in mouth fluids may help germs grow and set the
stage for gum disease.
Smoking. The harmful effects of smoking,
particularly heart disease and cancer, are well known. Studies show that smoking also
increases the chances of developing gum disease. In fact, smokers are five times more
likely than nonsmokers to have gum disease. For smokers with diabetes, the risk is even
greater. If you are a smoker with diabetes, age 45 or older, you are 20 times more likely
than a person without these risk factors to get severe gum disease.