Imagine if you had an ulcer the size of a regular Australian postage stamp on the back of your hand. Wouldn’t you do something about it? Clean it up? Bandage it? Treat infection with antibiotics? Many people don’t realise that the root of a single tooth has the entire surface area of one average postage stamp! Now imagine if you had gum disease and the gums around several teeth in your mouth were housing millions and millions of nasty bacteria? That’s a lot of stamps!
Don’t let gum disease deliver bad messages to the rest of your body!
Gum disease is like diabetes – they are both insidious diseases which often progress without significant symptoms until significant damage is done. While diabetes can result in damage to your nerves, eyes and kidneys, chronic gum disease eventually leads to tooth loosening, extractions and oral infections that recur. In fact chronic gum disease has even been linked to pre-term pregnancy and heart disease.
Diabetes is a complex disease that involves the way we absorb glucose (sugar) into our bodies and use it. The hormone insulin is vital in utilising glucose for energy. Diabetic patients have either insufficient insulin, or do not respond normally to insulin i.e. they are resistant to its effects. For more information on diabetes, please visit the Diabetes Australia website.
Active gum disease means that there are uncontrolled populations of nasty bacteria residing and multiplying in the pockets around your teeth. Because of the toxins these bacteria secrete into the body, they can cause an intense inflammatory response by you. The chemicals you release in reaction to these toxins can increase insulin resistance, which can worsen type II diabetes, the most common form of diabetes.
In uncontrolled diabetic patients, there is often excess glucose in the blood. This glucose can react with chemicals in the blood. This can result in the production of advanced glycation products, which are reactive substances that can alter the way your defence cells function. As a result, often the earliest sign of diabetes is active gum disease that does not improve with professional cleaning at the dentist and strict oral hygiene at home! Diabetics are also more susceptible to oral infections.
The good news is that there is growing evidence to show that if gum disease is controlled, a patient’s diabetic status also may improve too, and vice versa! This is a prime example where oral health is strongly linked to systemic (whole body) health. It also goes without saying that regular attendance at the dentist is invaluable, as any early signs of disease can be picked up.