Continuous studies over the years have shown correlations between periodontal disease and other health problems such as heart disease. While it can’t be conclusively proven that periodontal disease has a direct effect on these health problems, overwhelming evidence supports the theory that periodontal disease is a gateway disease to other health issues. Another health problem that periodontal disease has been widely associated with is diabetes.
Diabetes is a problem in America that continues to worsen. Currently, nearly 30 million Americans suffer from the disease. That’s over nine percent of the country’s population. Nearly eight million of those struggling with the disesae, or about 28 percent, remain undiagnosed. These numbers have been increasing steadily over the past 20 years.
There are two categories of diabetes; type one and type two. Type one is an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that allows the body to receive energy from food. In order to survive with type one, the patient must take multiple daily injections of insulin or have a pump that continuously injects insulin. This most serious type constitutes about 10 percent of all diabetes diagnoses.
Type two is a slightly less serious type and has the ability to be caused by dietary habits. With type two, the body is still producing insulin but it’s not using it effectively. Obesity is a main cause of type two. This type constitutes about 90 percent of all diabetes diagnoses.
Over the past 50 years, more than 200 studies have been done to discover the prevalence of periodontal disease among those with diabetes and the prevalence of the disease among those with periodontal disease. Despite extensive research, it’s been difficult to find a direct correlation due to the changing classifications for both diabetes and periodontitis, the criteria that assess its prevalence or severity, the continuously changing standards of establishing the degree of glycemic control, and the different methods of assessing complications with diabetes.
These numerous studies have shown that those with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease. Additionally, poorly controlled blood glucose levels have also been shown to have a negative impact on gum disease.
Similarly, these studies have shown that periodontitis has the ability to affect blood glucose control and can cause a more rapid progression of diabetes. Like all other infections, it may also be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise which could makes controlling the diabetes a more difficult task.
Despite the fact that the abundance of studies still cannot conclusively prove a correlation between diabetes and periodontal disease, studies have consistently shown links between the two. In 1982, a study found that children with type one suffered from greater gingival inflammation than those without diabetes that had similar plaque levels. Additionally, those with poorly controlled diabetes showed more gingival bleeding than those that kept the disease well-controlled. Participants with type two also showed greater gingival inflammation than the control group that didn’t have diabetes. The highest levels of inflammation were, again, found in those with poor glycemic control.
Another study in 1996 showed similar results as those with type one displayed more gingival bleeding than those without type one. When the blood sugar levels of the participants were controlled by insulin therapy, the gingivitis decreased.
A 2005 study measured the gingival inflammation of adult subjects that had type one against control subjects that did not have diabetes. The subjects in both groups were similar in terms of age, sex, and oral hygiene. The results of the study showed that those with type one had more rapid and severe gingival inflammation than the control subjects.
In 1990, a risk analysis study was done which showed that those with type two were three times as likely to have periodontitis than those without diabetes. The study was done with two groups that showed similar characteristics in terms of age, sex, diabetes, and dental hygiene to solidify their results.
Periodontal disease has been linked to multiple other, more serious medical conditions including heart disease and strokes. Hundreds of studies over the past 50 years have also linked periodontal disease with diabetes. If you have signs of periodontal disease, such as bleeding gums, it’s important to see a board certified periodontist for treatment.