Periodontal diseases - or advanced gum disease - are some of the most common inflammatory diseases in adults. In fact, about a quarter of Canadians lives with the early stages of periodontal disease, and about 1 in 5 live with periodontal disease.

But, how serious can it be?

Well, dental professionals know that there is a direct link between your oral health, and your overall health.

Specifically, your oral health can directly impact, contribute to, or worsen systemic diseases. Systemic diseases are those that affect more than one organ and tissues. These are diseases that can affect the body as a whole. In this article, we’ll explain the connection between oral health and type 2 diabetes.

About Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is the type a person is born with; sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes. Type 2 diabetes however, is the type a person develops over time. Diabetes is a systemic disease that affects the kidneys, heart, skin, and eyes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. It accounts for about 90% of all cases in Canada. Risk factors for this disease include older age, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and a family history of diabetes.

Saskatchewan faces unique challenges with preventing and treating type 2 diabetes. In the last ten years the province has seen a 45% increase in diabetes. The province has the highest rate of obesity in adults compared to the rest of the country. Around 46% of adults in Saskatchewan are obese - which increases the risk for diabetes. Additionally, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is three to five times higher in Indigenous populations, which is compounded by barriers to health care, and rural or remote access to health care.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that can have a dramatic impact on a person’s life. It contributes to 30% of strokes, 40% of heart attacks, 50% of kidney failure require dialysis and 70% of non-traumatic (meaning, not caused by an accident) lower limb amputations every single year in Canada. It is also the leading cause of vision loss.

The Link Between Diabetes and Oral Health

The link between diabetes and oral health has long been studied and the association is confirmed by the research.

Diabetes and periodontal disease are chronic conditions that are both rooted in the body’s immune-inflammatory response. Multiple studies indicate that the two conditions are connected - meaning diabetes is a risk factor for periodontal disease, and periodontal disease can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as the severity of diabetes experienced by a person.

In fact, diabetics are generally more likely to have periodontal disease than the non-diabetic general public.

Serious Gum Disease Has Serious Consequences

The inflammation of periodontal disease not only has a negative impact on other systems in the body, putting a strain on overall health, it also directly impacts blood sugar management, also known as glucose levels. The chronic inflammation and infection that comes with periodontal disease impacts the body’s ability to control glucose levels. This results in more complications related to diabetes, and more severe forms of those complications.

Diabetics with poor oral health have a 34% higher risk of serious medical complications like amputation, dialysis, heart attack and/or stroke. These are real consequences that can be mitigated through regular oral health care and maintenance.

What’s the bottom line? Your oral health matters.

What Can You Do?

This may sound obvious, but the research is clear - taking care of your oral health can lead to better overall health outcomes. If you live with type 2 diabetes, or are pre-diabetic, it is even more important that you make oral health care a part of your overall health and wellness routine and maintenance.

Good oral health routines, like consistent brushing and flossing, and regular visits to the dentist for check-ups and cleanings, can reduce the risk of negative diabetic outcomes like foot ulcers, blindness, kidney problems and even death.

The risks are serious, but the solution can be simple.

Find a Saskatchewan Dentist

All dentists are required to be licensed by meeting specific requirements and training and it is often a matter of taking the time to find the best "fit" for you. A phone call to the office or a visit to the dentist’s website may provide help with regard to language options, location, accessibility, insurance and payment options, hours of operation, recall programs, and more.