Periodontitis: a Type of Gum Disease

Several studies have concluded that diabetes triples the risk of periodontitis.

Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is caused by the accumulation of bacteria, plaque and tartar between the teeth. This leads to gingivitis, the term for inflammation of the gingiva (gums). If left untreated, the inflammation can spread to the bone supporting the teeth. This more advanced stage is called periodontitis. When the bone supporting the teeth begins to deteriorate, the affected teeth become loose and may need to be extracted.

Symptoms

Periodontitis develops surreptitiously, often with little warning. It is usually painless but can lead to the following symptoms:

  • persistent bad breath
  • bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
  • loose teeth

Diabetes and periodontitis

People with diabetes are at greater risk for gum problems, especially if their diabetes is not properly controlled.

Other factors increase the risk:

  • heredity
  • smoking
  • poor dental hygiene

Diagnosis

Periodontitis is relatively easy for a dentist to diagnose. With early diagnosis, treatment is simpler, and tooth extraction can usually be delayed or avoided.

Treatment

There are various treatments for periodontitis – surgical (bone grafts to reconstruct damaged gums) and non-surgical. Since each case is unique, we recommend you discuss treatment options with your dentist.

Prevention

Prevention is always better than treatment!

In 90% of cases, periodontitis can be avoided by:

  • proper brushing twice a day (including below the gum line)
  • daily flossing
  • at least two dental cleanings per year
  • proper glycemic (blood sugar) control

See also:

Ordre des dentistes du Québec, Gum disease.

Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Health Care Professionals

Scientific review: Dr. Patrick Magnan, DMD, Dentist

July 2014