New Jersey Society of Periodontists Explains the Periodontal Disease/Diabetes Connection

Posted on October 9, 2013

Morganville, NJ (October 22, 2012) November is American Diabetes Month, and the New Jersey Society of Periodontists (NJSP) would like patients and caregivers alike to be aware of the link between periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the gums, and diabetes.

“If you have diabetes, you are at higher risk for developing infections, including periodontal disease,” explains Dr. Scott Zirkin, President of the NJSP. “These infections can impair the ability to process and/or utilize insulin, which may cause your diabetes to be more difficult to control and your infection to be more severe than a person with the disease.”

People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes, most likely because they are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes, and those people who don't have their diabetes under control are especially at risk.*

A recent study in the Journal of Periodontology found that poorly-controlled type 2 diabetes patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease than well-controlled diabetes patients are. Moreover, research has emerged that suggests that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes goes both ways – periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.

According to Gina Murdoch, Executive Director, American Diabetes Association, New Jersey Area, “We are very much aware of the link between periodontal disease and diabetes and understand the importance of the collaborative care of a periodontist and a physician.”

A study was published a few years back in the Journal of Periodontology that involved patients with both diabetes and periodontal disease. The study found that when their periodontal infections were treated, the management of their diabetes markedly improved. “The mouth/body connection is very strong and should not be underestimated by those living with diabetes or their caregivers,” says Dr. Zirkin.

According to Dr. Zirkin, severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with high blood sugar levels. This puts diabetics at a higher risk for diabetic complications. Thus, diabetics who have periodontal disease should be treated by a specialist to control and/or eliminate the periodontal infection.

Many other healthcare professionals from around New Jersey are also taking the opportunity during American Diabetes Month to educate local residents about diabetes, including Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.  "An important aspect of our diabetes self-management treatment plan is to educate patients about the many risks of poorly controlled diabetes, such as periodontal disease,” remarked Autumn Dempsey, RN, CDE, Program Coordinator for the Diabetes Education Center at Monmouth Medical Center.  “The Center for Diabetes Education at Monmouth Medical Center places a strong emphasis on good oral hygiene and urges patients to report any abnormal findings to their dentist. I encourage patients to use the many tools and resources provided by local healthcare facilities around New Jersey to reduce the chance of ever having to face diabetes-related complications." 

*Research documents available from NJSP upon request.

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