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The Oral Systemic Connection Part 3 Diabetes and Oral Health

7.6.16 in General

Healthy Mouth Sounds- The Oral Systemic Connection part 3
Diabetes and Oral Health

Periodontitis! What an awful thought. Your gums retract away from your teeth, and the bone that supports your teeth gets destroyed. It gets destroyed by the bacteria and inflammation that cause periodontitis.

As you loose bone support, your teeth begin to shift in position. This allows them to hit together in a damaging way. As this bone loss progresses, teeth become noticeably looser, making them poor tools for the difficult tasks of chewing. Eventually, teeth are lost. Now, no speaking function, no chewing function, and certainly no smiling ability, as you once knew it. It sounds like a pretty grim picture. We know there are some systemic disorders that can worsen or cause this oral problem. To name one- Diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body handles our main energy source- glucose. Glucose, also known as blood sugar, is needed for every function of all cells in our bodies, and it’s regulation at certain levels is critical. Diabetes is a disorder in the regulation of blood glucose, and as you can imagine, if impaired, glucose regulation has many far reaching effects.

We know that very close control of our blood glucose levels, decreases the detrimental effects of having diabetes. For instance, if blood glucose levels are well controlled, diabetics are less likely to experience the visual problems that can occur with diabetes.

Likewise, well controlled oral health, with lack of inflammation and bacterial overgrowth will improve the possible complications of diabetes. We must also remember that this is a two-way street. By that I mean that worsening oral health will be bad for your diabetes and also it is the diabetes that is setting you up for poor oral health. This happens for a few reasons. Diabetes is a disease that affects microvasculature, or the tiny blood vessels that bring nutrients to our tissues. So, we experience poorer blood flow to tissues, poorer nutrition and oxygenation of tissues, and therefore poorer health.

Diabetes also affects our nervous systems. We see damage to nerve endings in diabetics. We also see an inability to fight infection as well. These are deadly combinations for keeping tissues healthy.
One way to “counterbalance” these adverse effects is to keep blood sugar well controlled. However, one of the sequelae of infection, such as bacteria, pus and inflammation around teeth, is an increase in blood sugar levels. So this becomes a vicious cycle.

By far, the best answer is to prevent any inflammation from occurring. This is actually very achievable in the oral cavity. Regular visits to your dentist, meticulous care of your teeth and gums and diet, as prescribed, and close attention to controlling diabetes, will minimize if not eliminate many adverse effects.

We continue to uncover connections between the overall health of our bodies, and good oral health. Next time we will discuss a “silent killer”- sleep apnea, and its connection to teeth and oral health.

So, stay tuned in, and keep smiling. Dr W.


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Gary Williams, DMD

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