Gum Disease and Diabetes

Gum Disease and Diabetes

The association between diabetes and gum disease is a complex one.  Individuals with diabetes are at a significantly higher risk of developing gum disease, with a threefold increase compared to those without the condition. 

Conversely, gum disease can exacerbate or contribute to the progression of diabetes.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, which makes it an ideal time for Dr. Nathan Klabunde of Northwoods Dental Group in Columbus, OH, to explain what anyone with diabetes should know about preventing gum disease.

Gum disease 101

Gum disease is not an overnight occurrence; it evolves through stages, offering you the opportunity to seek treatment and avert severe complications:

Stage 1: Formation of plaque

The digestion process initiates in your mouth as saliva breaks down carbohydrates, releasing sugar. This sugar combines with saliva and the bacteria in your mouth, forming plaque.


Plaque is a sticky substance that adheres to your teeth. Simultaneously, the bacteria within the plaque feed on sugar, generating and releasing acids and other harmful toxins.

If brushing doesn't effectively remove the plaque, it continues to harbor bacteria and acids near your teeth, leading to enamel erosion and potential tooth decay.

Stage 2: Transforming into tartar

Should the plaque persist on your teeth, it solidifies into tartar, providing a more permanent habitat for bacteria. This facilitates their easy access to your gums.

Stage 3: Gum infection (gingivitis)

Bacteria infiltrate your gums, causing an infection known as gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis may include:

As plaque extends beneath the gumline, the acids perpetuate chronic inflammation, progressing to the next stage: periodontal disease.

Stage 4: Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease, or periodontitis, represents the most severe form of gum disease. Without treatment, your gums deteriorate and soften, enabling the infection to penetrate deeper. Ultimately, periodontitis can erode the underlying jawbone, leading to a heightened risk of tooth loss.

Impact of diabetes on gum disease

Diabetes significantly impacts your oral health. Here's how it can trigger gum disease or exacerbate existing gum issues:

Reduced saliva production

Diabetes affects the salivary glands in your mouth, resulting in reduced saliva production. Beyond its role in carbohydrate digestion, saliva plays a crucial part in preventing tooth decay by flushing away food particles.

Saliva also hinders bacterial growth and counters the acids produced by these bacteria. A decreased saliva flow allows for increased bacterial growth and plaque formation.

Elevated glucose levels in saliva

High blood sugar levels correspond to increased sugar levels in your saliva, promoting bacterial growth. Concurrently, gum disease infections can elevate blood sugar levels, making diabetes management more challenging. This sets the stage for an ongoing cycle of progressive gum disease.

Challenges in treating infections

Diabetes affects your body's ability to combat early gum infections. Individuals with diabetes typically experience a heightened inflammatory response. What may be a mild gum infection for most people can escalate into a more severe issue for those with diabetes.

Whether you have a mild or severe gum infection, diabetes can impede the healing process. Elevated blood sugar damages blood vessels, reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to your gums and increasing the risk of a worsening infection.

Gum disease prevention

Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is the primary step in preventing gum disease and other diabetes-related severe complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and non-healing foot ulcers. 

That means following a healthy diet, monitoring carbohydrate intake, engaging in regular exercise, and, for some individuals, taking prescribed medications to regulate blood sugar levels.


Along with diabetes management, preventing gum disease entails diligent oral care. Brushing your teeth at least twice daily using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste is crucial. Brushing after every meal is also beneficial.

Equally important is cleaning between teeth by flossing daily with dental floss or using interdental brushes designed to reach tight spaces between teeth.

Regular dental check-ups are equally important as daily home care. No matter how diligently you maintain oral hygiene, some plaque and tartar can accumulate. Removal requires expertise and specialized dental instruments.

For more information about diabetes, gum disease, and all of your oral healthcare needs, contact our office today. Call 614-333-8858 or request an appointment through our website.

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