November is American Diabetes Awareness Month – Are you at a higher risk for gum disease?


Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce, and/or use insulin.

Is there a link between gum disease and diabetes?

Of the nearly 26 million Americans who have diabetes, many may be surprised to learn about an unexpected complication associated with this condition.  Research shows that there is an increased incidence of gum disease among those with diabetes, adding gum disease to this list of other complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Is there a two-way street?

Emerging research also suggests that the relationship between gum disease and diabetes is two-way.  Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to gum disease, but gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control, and contribute to the progression of diabetes.  Research suggests that people with diabetes are at a higher risk for oral health problems such as gingivitis (the early stages of gum disease) and periodontitis (advanced gum disease).  People with diabetes are at an increased risk for gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums.

Are there any warning signs of gum disease?

Often, gum disease is painless.  You may not even know that you have it until it has reached an advanced stage.  While gum disease may not hurt, there are warning signs to watch out for:


    • Bleeding gums when you brush or floss.  This bleeding is not normal, even if your gums don’t hurt, you should call to schedule an appointment right away.
    • Red, swollen, or tender gums
    • Gums that have pulled away from teeth.  Part of the tooth’s root may show, or your tooth may look longer.
    • Pus between teeth and gums (when you press on the gums)
    • Bad breath (halitosis)
    • Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other.
    • Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
    • Changes in the fit of a partial denture or a bridge

If you have any of the above warning signs, we suggest that you call us to schedule an appointment as soon as you can so that we can assess your oral health.

Prevention, Treatment, and Maintenance

Prevention of gum disease starts at home with good oral home care.  Some prevention measures include:

Brushing properly (at least twice a day) making sure to angle the brush underneath the gum line to remove the bacteria from in and around the gums.

Flossing daily using either standard dental floss, floss picks, or a water pick.

Using mouthwash.  A chlorhexidine gluconate-based mouthwash works best to combat gingivitis, which we do have available here in the office.

Treatment of gum disease depends on the level of severity.  With a mild case of gingivitis, usually just one or two regular cleanings (prophylaxis) are needed.  When gum disease reaches periodontitis, a deep cleaning (periodontal scaling and root planing) will be recommended.  When a deep cleaning is needed, it is done by quadrants of the mouth, usually 2 quadrants (one whole side) of the mouth are done at a time.

The first step of a deep cleaning is for the hygienist to numb that area that they will be treating.  After the area is numb, they use special instruments to remove the plaque, calculus (tartar), and bacteria from underneath the gum line.  After the bacteria is removed, most times the sites are irrigated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic called Arestin® to help aid in the healing process.


After the deep cleaning is performed, the hygienist will schedule you back for a 6 week evaluation appointment.  At that appointment, they will perform a periodontal exam, and check to see how the gums are healing.  Then after the examination, it is recommended that periodontal maintenance cleanings be done at least every 4 months to closely monitor the overall health of the mouth and gums.

If you are experiencing any of the warning signs of gum disease, or would just like to schedule for your bi-annual cleaning appointment, give us a call today or go to to learn more.  We would be happy to find a time that would work for you.

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