Did you know that over 30 million people in the United States are currently diagnosed with diabetes? As the number rises in our country, awareness is vital to the prevention and management of this disease. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and we would like to join orthodontists across the country in spreading vital information about how diabetes can affect your oral health and influence orthodontic treatment.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a condition where bacterial growth within the mouth results in an infection of the surrounding and supporting soft tissue of teeth. One of the most common causes of gum disease is the build-up of plaque that hardens into tartar which can only be removed by professionals. This buildup irritates the gums causing them to become swollen, red, and recede. As they recede higher, the infection continues to spread and can lead to eventual tooth and bone loss.
There are two stages of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. The common symptoms of gingivitis include swollen or red gums that may bleed during brushing and flossing. There is no bone or tissue damage at this stage and teeth are often firmly rooted in place. This stage is reversible with dental cleanings and good oral hygiene habits.
Periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease and is the result of gingivitis being left untreated. During this stage, the inner layers of gum and bone have receded from your teeth and formed pockets. These pockets allow for food and bacteria to grow inside leading to further infection. Common symptoms of periodontitis include sensitive teeth, receding gums, the shifting or loss of teeth, and bad breath. If left untreated, the infection can further spread into the bone and jaw area. Periodontitis requires professional treatment and possible surgical options.
Diabetes and Gum Disease
Gum disease is often caused by plaque buildup and though there is no difference in buildup between those with diabetes and those without, diabetic patients are more susceptible to infections, increasing their risk of developing gum disease. For this reason, patients must practice good oral hygiene practices.
Additionally, gum disease can lead to an elevation in blood sugar levels that may cause complications for diabetic patients. High blood sugar levels can also encourage plaque buildup furthering the development of gum disease and making it harder for patients to control their blood sugar levels and gum disease.
Patients diagnosed with diabetes are also more susceptible to tooth decay, thrush, and dry mouth. Fortunately, these conditions and diseases can be prevented and managed if you maintain a healthy dental regimen while managing your diabetes.
What does that mean if you need orthodontic care?
Depending on the severity of your condition, orthodontic treatment may or may not be possible. In moderate to severe cases, gum disease can cause your teeth to shift into undesirable positions during treatment. In other cases, the inflammation of gums may cause bleeding and sores due to friction against the appliances during treatment which can lead to infection. These complications may cause treatment to stop early to avoid increasing patient risk of infection.
However, that doesn’t mean that if you are diabetic and have gum disease you are unable to receive orthodontic care. We will conduct a thorough evaluation of your teeth to determine the best course of treatment. If necessary, we will start by getting your gum disease under control. Once both your gum disease and blood sugar levels are stable, we can begin orthodontic treatment. In some cases, we may recommend aligners as opposed to traditional braces as aligners are removable allowing patients to eat, drink, and clean their teeth easily even with mild cases of gingivitis. Aligner therapy can be a great alternative to patients in maintaining good oral health even with gum disease.
For more information on gum disease and orthodontic treatment or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. L’Tanya Joy Bailey today.