Diabetes is a medical condition that arises when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal. There are two types of diabetes—type 1 and type 2. In the case of type 1 diabetes, your body does not produce insulin. In the case of type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin but not in sufficient quantities.
Inflammation is a normal process that occurs as your body responds to germs or injury. Typical signs of inflammation can include an allergic reaction, swelling, redness in a wounded area, or a fever. While acute inflammation is necessary for your body to heal itself, inflammation that continues for a prolonged period (i.e., is chronic) results in adverse health conditions. Periodontitis is often stated to be the sixth complication of diabetes.
A 2001 study published in the journal Annals of Periodontology revealed a strong link between diabetes and periodontitis.7 Many studies have followed. One hundred and fifty published studies demonstrating a clear two-way relationship between diabetes and periodontitis are presently listed in the US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health). This means that if you have gum disease or periodontitis it can lead to diabetes and vice versa.
Inflammation Leads to Periodontitis and Diabetes
Periodontitis can change the action of insulin on glucose resulting in insulin resistance and high blood sugar. A 2005 study that investigated the link between diabetes, obesity and periodontitis revealed that having periodontitis can cause chronic inflammation in the body resulting in diabetes.8 It is confirmed that periodontal disease is an aggravating factor among patients with diabetes and contributes to complications.
Medical researchers and physicians recommend that treating periodontitis and other minor gum diseases is crucial to prevent complications associated with diabetes. They also recommend healthy dietary and lifestyle changes. With appropriate food habits it is possible to lead a quality life that is free of other health complications. Preventive oral health measures should be taken such as regular teeth cleanings and checkups by your dentist and/or periodontist.
Your Oral Health Can Influence Your Risk of Diabetes
According to a 2006 CDC report, diabetes affects nearly 20 million Americans, among which 35–40% of the cases remain undetected. The prevalence of diabetes for adults worldwide was estimated to be 6.4 percent in 2010 and is projected to be 7.7 percent in 2030. The total number of people with diabetes is projected to rise from 285 million in 2010 to 439 million in 2030. About 21 million Americans have diagnosed diabetes, almost 9 percent of the adult population, but diabetes rates are growing in the U.S. In fact, about 35 percent of Americans have pre-diabetes. African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and other ethnic minorities bear a disproportionate burden of diabetes in the U.S.
How to Identify if You Have Diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes the symptoms are mild and may often go unnoticed. Here are the common symptoms of diabetes.
• Excessive thirst
• Excessive urination
• Feeling tired
• Slow healing of cuts or wounds
• Blurry vision
• Numbness in hands and feet
• Unexplained weight loss or gain
In order to determine if you have high blood sugar, your primary healthcare provider can order a fasting blood sugar test, glucose tolerance test, and random blood sugar analysis. Another efficient way to determine the blood sugar level is the A1C test.
Your body produces red blood cells that live for about three months. The A1C blood test (also known as the hemoglobin A1C test) measures the glucose that clings to red blood cells and thus is indicative of your average blood glucose for the last 2-3 months. The test result is reported as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the higher is your blood glucose level. A normal A1C value is less than 5.7%, as shown in the chart below. Since the A1C test gives your physician a good picture of your blood sugar control, it is the primary test for diabetes management.
• Preshaw PM, Bissett SM. Periodontitis: oral complication of diabetes. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am, 2013;42(4):849-67.
• Taylor GW, Bidirectional interrelationships between diabetes and periodontal diseases: an epidemiologic perspective. Annal Periodontol, 2001;6(1):99-112.
• Pihlstrom BL, Michalowicz BS, Johnson NW. Periodontist and diabetes: a two-way relationshio. Lancet, 2005(366):1809-1820.