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Gum Disease and Diabetes

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Gum Disease and Diabetes

By Nina Nazor

It is a well-known fact that high blood glucose levels can affect the health of gums and teeth.

According to a recent report from researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, gum disease can start early in life in kids with diabetes and gets worse as children become adolescents if proper care is not taken.

The team lead by Dr. Ira B. Lamster, evaluated the presence of periodontal diseases (infections of the gums and bone that keep teeth in place) in 182 children and adolescents with diabetes, compared to 160 children and adolescents without diabetes.

They found that children with diabetes had much higher plaque and gingival swelling levels compared to the children without diabetes.

Also, the group of kids with diabetes ages 12 to 18 years had the worst signs of gum disease.

It seems like there is a general lack of knowledge among people with diabetes about the importance of visiting the dentist for a check up every 6 months.

These findings suggest that the health care team, the parents of children with diabetes and the kids themselves must be aware of the vital role of oral health and good diabetes control to prevent complications.

A note of caution is that gum infections are a cause of poorly controlled diabetes, which can take the person to the hospital risking his or her general health.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

Some of the most common symptoms are the following:

  • Deep red gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gums

What can you do to prevent gum disease?

  • Brush and floss the teeth every day
  • Use an electric toothbrush
  • Visit the dentist every 6 months
  • Keep good blood glucose control: below 120 mg/dL at fasting and below 180 mg/dL 2 hours after meals.
  • Keep glycosylated hemoglobin below 6.5%

Source: Lalla E, Cheng B, Lal S, Tucker S, Greenberg E, Lamster I. Periodontal Changes in Children and Adolescents With Diabetes. Diabetes Care 29:295-299, 2006.

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