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Gum Disease: Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which unusually high levels of sugar are found in the blood due to the body's inadequate utilization of insulin — a hormone manufactured in the pancreas to produce energy. There are two forms of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. People with Type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin. Those with Type 2 diabetes produce normal or slightly above average amounts of insulin, but the body has grown resistant to its effects resulting in an insulin shortage.

The link between periodontal disease and diabetes has been well documented. Studies have found periodontal disease to be more prevalent in diabetics versus non-diabetics. This is probably due to the fact that diabetics are more susceptible to infection. Diabetics also lose more teeth than non-diabetics.

Now, researchers are also finding that periodontal disease may predispose or exacerbate the diabetic condition. In a randomized, controlled trial, periodontal treatment in diabetics showed a reduction in the need for insulin following periodontal treatment of two separate groups of diabetic patients. A longitudinal study of diabetes and periodontal disease found that severe periodontitis may be an important risk factor for the progression of diabetes, and physicians should consider the periodontal status of diabetes patients having difficulty with glycemic control.

The prevalence of diabetes has increased by 75% over the past 35 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 16 million Americans, 5.9% of the population, live with the disease. Of these, 5.4 million are unaware they have the illness. As with the many infection-related complications of diabetes, gum disease is intrinsically linked to poor metabolic control.