Diabetes and Periodontal Disease: Understanding the Connection  | Sydney Park Dental

Diabetes and Periodontal Disease: Understanding the Connection


Diabetes and periodontal disease may seem like two entirely unrelated health conditions, but they are closely linked to one another. People with diabetes are three times more likely to develop serious gum disease, with symptoms often going untreated until the late stages.  The first sign of periodontal disease is the presence of sore, tender and inflamed gums. In the early stages, gum disease is easily treatable. Diabetes and gum disease have a two-way relationship, meaning that each condition can exacerbate the other. In this blog post, we will be sharing some insight into this relationship.  

Understanding Periodontal Disease 

Most people are familiar with periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the tissues surrounding the teeth including the gums, periodontal ligaments and alveolar bone. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, characterised by red, swollen gums that bleed easily. Left untreated, the condition can progress to periodontitis which involves irreversible damage to the supporting structures of the teeth. 

The Diabetes Epidemic 

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterised by elevated blood sugar levels. This is due to either insufficient insulin production (type 1 diabetes) or ineffective use of insulin by the body (type 2 diabetes). Diabetes was first declared an epidemic in 1994 by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With cases steadily increasing each year, it is crucial that people have an understanding of the various ways in which diabetes can impact overall health, including oral health.  

How Are Diabetes and Periodontal Disease Related? 

Diabetes and periodontal disease have what is known as a bidirectional relationship, meaning they can exacerbate the other.  

People with diabetes are at an elevated risk of developing periodontal disease due to:  

  • Impaired immune function 
  • Decreased wound healing ability 
  • Increased susceptibility ot infections 

On the other hand, untreated periodontal disease can make it more challenging to control blood sugar levels, leading to complications in diabetes management.  

Shared Inflammatory Pathways 

One of the key mechanisms underlying the link between diabetes and periodontal disease is inflammation. Both conditions involve chronic inflammation in different forms. With diabetes, people experience systemic inflammation throughout the body. Periodontal disease is characterised by localised inflammation in the gums. As both conditions are suspected to share the same inflammatory pathways, there is a synergistic relationship where inflammation in one condition can exacerbate inflammation in the other, leading to a vicious cycle of worsening health outcomes.  

Impacts on Oral Health 

For individuals living with diabetes, the presence of periodontal disease can have significant implications for oral health. Advanced periodontitis can lead to tooth loss, bone resorption and oral infections. This further complicates diabetes management and increases the risk of diabetic complications such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. 

Additionally, elevated blood glucose levels may lead to the development of oral conditions such as: 

  • Oral Thrush (fungal infection) 
  • Mouth ulcers 
  • Delayed wound healing 
  • Changes in taste perception 
  • Dry mouth 

Given the interconnected nature of diabetes and periodontal disease, maintaining good oral hygiene and attending regular check-ups is crucial for individuals with diabetes.   

Collaborative Care Approach 

Managing diabetes and periodontal disease requires a collaborative approach involving both medical and dental professionals. Dentists and dental hygienists can work closely with patients’ primary care physicians or endocrinologists to coordinate care and ensure that oral health interventions complement diabetes management strategies. This integrated approach is key to addressing the complex interplay between diabetes and periodontal disease and optimising patient outcomes.  

Book an Appointment Today  

Due for a check-up? Don’t hesitate to book an appointment at Sydney Park Dental today.