The Specialist

Gum disease and diabetes connection

Healthy gums can help save your life.

A healthy body and improved medical conditions are associated with healthy gums. Healthy gums assure less pain, suffering and better functioning organs. And there is a strong connection between oral health and diabetes prevalence.

Gum disease is a common chronic degenerative disease that destroys jaw bone and affects your overall health, over time. The prevalence of gum disease is 70 percent in adults over 50. If left untreated, it leads to painful infections and early loss of teeth. Gum disease aggravates and exacerbates other chronic medical conditions. One of those diseases is diabetes.

Research journals and medical professionals are increasingly pointing to a direct connection between our oral health and diabetes prevalence. The Bahamas leads the world in the prevalence of diabetes. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), in 2014, The Bahamas had 34,000 people with diabetes. If you add pre-diabetes to this number, the prevalence is as high as 57,000 Bahamians. Our death rate from diabetes stands at 38 deaths per 100,000 people. Diabetes is now the fifth leading cause of death in The Bahamas.

We have known for years that if you are diabetic, you have a greater likelihood of gum disease. During the gum disease process, oral bacterial waste (poop) enters the blood stream from your gums and triggers the liver to release enzymes that increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The reverse is also true. The health of your gums can influence your diabetic status.

Your sugar load or diabetic status can be improved by improving your gum health. This means a healthy gum promotes better general health because the sugar levels are more likely to be favorable.

If your diabetes is unmanaged, you can lose all of your teeth. The more severe the diabetes, the severity of periodontitis increases. High blood glucose also hinders the ability of the gums and bone to heal because it inhibits the production of bone building cells.

So, what does this mean to you?

It means that everyone, but more importantly older adults, the pre-diabetic, full diabetic and heart disease patients, need a thorough assessment of their dental and gum (periodontal) condition. This includes periodontal probing, x-rays, an assessment of mobility, bleeding, swelling, the bacteria and other items important in a full periodontal examination.

If periodontitis is diagnosed, the next step is to treat it effectively. In most cases, treatment involves non-surgical scaling and root planing below the gum line. If some areas do not respond to scaling, there are a number of conservative approaches with lasers that can be used to gain access to the pocket and induce healthy gums.

Periodontal disease adversely affects your diabetic status. Early and proper treatment not only save your teeth, but may save your life.

 • Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or

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