The Link Between Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
August 30, 2023

A middle age woman holding her gums and jaw in pain.

Periodontal disease, often referred to as gum disease, is a prevalent oral health condition that affects the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. 

While factors like genetics, stress and certain medications can make a person more susceptible to gum disease, those with diabetes are at an especially high risk. It’s important to be aware of its warning signs, stages of the condition and treatment options so you can diagnose and alleviate periodontal disease before it worsens. Keep reading for all you need to know.

Symptoms of periodontal disease

It’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of periodontal disease early on to prevent its progression and maintain good oral health.

  • Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
  • Swollen or red gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Receding gums
  • Sensitive or loose teeth
  • Pain while chewing
  • Changes in bite
  • Pus formation between teeth
  • Deep spaces between the teeth and gums

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s advisable to call a dentist for a thorough evaluation and appropriate treatment. Individuals with diabetes should be extra vigilant in seeking care. 

Stages of periodontal disease

The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. It’s characterized by inflammation of the gums due to the accumulation of plaque — a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. Poor oral hygiene, inadequate brushing and flossing and certain medical conditions can contribute to the development of gingivitis. Common initial signs include redness, swelling and bleeding of the gums, especially while brushing or flossing. 

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to mild or moderate periodontitis. At this stage, inflammation extends deeper into the supporting structures of the teeth. Plaque buildup not only affects the gums, but also causes the formation of pockets between gums and teeth where bacteria thrives. As the body’s immune response continues, the bone and connective tissues supporting the teeth start to break down.

When periodontitis progresses further, it can reach a severe stage, where the damage to bone and connective tissues is more pronounced. Teeth may become loose, and there may be a noticeable change in the alignment of teeth due to the loss of supporting structures. Gum recession can be more severe and pockets between teeth and gums deepen. 

Without appropriate intervention, tooth loss becomes a significant risk. Addressing issues at the first sign can prevent the condition from worsening and causing lasting damage.


Regular dental visits are essential for the early detection of periodontal disease. Diagnosis involves a combination of visual assessment, probing measurements, and sometimes diagnostic imaging. During a dental check-up, a dentist or dental hygienist will carefully examine your gums for signs of inflammation, bleeding, and recession. 

They will also use a thin instrument called a periodontal probe to measure the depth of the pockets between gums and teeth. Deep pockets can indicate the presence of periodontal disease. In some cases, dental X-rays may be taken to assess the extent of bone loss and examine areas that are not directly visible.

These diagnostic tools help determine the stage and severity of the disease, allowing for appropriate treatment planning. 


A person’s treatment plan will depend on the severity of the condition, but typically involves a multi-faceted approach to control infection, reduce inflammation, and promote the regeneration of damaged tissues. In early stages, such as gingivitis, thorough professional cleanings and improved oral hygiene practices at home can often reverse the condition. For mild to moderate periodontitis, a more comprehensive treatment called scaling and root planing is performed, where the dentist removes plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline, then smooths the tooth roots to prevent bacteria buildup. In cases of moderate to severe periodontitis, more advanced interventions might be necessary, including flap surgery or bone grafting.

Maintaining healthy gums with diabetes

Gum health is particularly important for individuals living with diabetes. Regular and thorough brushing, preferably with a soft-bristle toothbrush, along with daily flossing helps to prevent plaque buildup that contributes to gum disease. Additionally, a balanced diet rich in nutrients plays a significant role; foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates should be limited, as they can fuel bacteria growth and worsen gum issues. Finally, avoid tobacco products, as smoking doesn’t only increase the risk of gum disease but also hampers diabetes management.

Oral health tips for kids with diabetes

If you have a child with diabetes, take these steps to safeguard their oral health:

  1. Supervise oral care: Closely observe and assist children with diabetes in their oral hygiene routines to ensure proper brushing and flossing.
  2. Offer a balanced diet: Encourage a diet low in sugary foods and beverages to prevent excessive plaque buildup and promote overall health.
  3. Visit the dentist: Schedule regular dental check-ups for professional cleanings and to monitor any potential oral health issues.
  4. Control blood sugar: Maintain stable blood sugar levels through diabetes management, as fluctuations can impact gum health.
  5. Think about oral care during highs and lows: During high blood sugar episodes, ensure hydration and continue oral hygiene practices; during low blood sugar episodes, focus on avoiding sugary substances that can harm teeth.

Oral health tips for seniors with diabetes

Similarly, seniors with diabetes should take extra precaution due to unique needs and considerations:

  1. Care for dentures: If applicable, ensure proper denture hygiene to prevent fungal infections and other oral health complications.
  2. Manage dry mouth: Many seniors experience dry mouth due to age or medications. Stay hydrated and consider using sugar-free candies or lozenges to stimulate saliva production.
  3. Visit the dentist: Schedule regular dental check-ups to monitor gum health, address potential issues, and receive professional cleanings.
  4. Control blood sugar: Maintain stable blood sugar levels through diabetes management, as fluctuations can impact gum health.
  5. Screen for oral cancer: Seniors should receive regular oral cancer screenings during dental visits, as they are at higher risk for oral cancers.

Dental insurance helps you manage your dental care

Dental insurance provides financial support for necessary treatments and preventive measures. For those with diabetes, dental insurance can cover regular check-ups, cleanings and early intervention measures that help prevent the progression of gum issues. 

Spirit Dental offers affordable plans in your area to alleviate the financial burden associated with oral care — promoting optimal oral health and reducing the likelihood of gum disease development.

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