Diabetes and Gum Disease: What's the Connection?

Written by Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, CDN

Along with heart disease, kidney disease, and other chronic health conditions, gum disease is a potential complication directly associated with diabetes. The link is so strong that researchers not only believe people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing gum disease, they also suspect that gum disease may, in turn, contribute to further progression of diabetes. Poor blood glucose control puts you at even higher risk of developing gum disease in the form of gingivitis (early stage gum disease) and periodontitis (more advanced gum disease).

How it Works

Because of the effects of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) on the immune system and the body as a whole, people with diabetes are more prone to infection than those who do not have diabetes. Gum disease is a bacterial infection. Infection, in turn, can cause spikes in blood sugar, making it harder to control diabetes symptoms. According to Dr. Gerry Curatola, Clinical Associate Professor in Cariology and Comprehensive Care at New York University College of Dentistry and founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry®, gum disease is one of the body’s leading sources of chronic, low-grade inflammation. This inflammation ravages the body and contributes to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer.

High cholesterol and blood fats are also common in people with diabetes, and these conditions can lead to immune system complications and inflammation, both of which are also linked to insulin resistance and the development of diabetes. Periodontitis may also increase cholesterol and blood fats, further complicating an existing condition, and increasing the risk of both the development and progression of diabetes symptoms.

What You Can Do

According to Dr. Curatola, there are several steps you can take to help prevent the onset and progression of gum disease. These steps help support a healthy oral microbiome, the natural bacterial community in your mouth. In addition to consistently monitoring your glucose levels to keep them under control, Dr. Curatola recommends that you: