8% of the U.S. population has diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease requiring continuing medical care and disciplined patient self-management to prevent complications. 20% of total health care costs or $116 billion, in the U.S. are attributed to diabetes.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum and bone surrounding the teeth. It is a chronic disease, with no known cure. Untreated, periodontal disease will lead to the loss of teeth. Numerous studies have shown that people with uncontrolled diabetes have more severe periodontal disease. Interestingly, the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes appears to be two-directional. If periodontal disease is worse, diabetes is worse and vice versa.

The inflammation caused by periodontal disease makes controlling sugar levels more difficult. This in turn can lead to increased resistance to insulin and worsening of diabetic control. This in turn allows form more inflammation of the gums and the cycle continues. Your dentist and dental hygienist can play a role in stopping or slowing this cycle.

Regular cleanings and appropriate treatment for periodontal or gum disease can reduce inflammation and improve diabetic control. Recent research has shown that people with diabetes that have regular dental care have fewer complications requiring medical intervention.

If you have diabetes, visit your dentist and make sure your gums are as healthy as they can be. It should make managing your diabetes easier.

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Article written by Jonathan Campbell, DDS. Dr. Campbell is a dentist at Legacy Dental in Salt Lake City.