In a recent study from Denmark, scientists found what they believe to be an unfavorable link between periodontal disease and pre-diabetes.[1] This 2007 study suggests that having periodontal disease may contribute to the progression of pre-diabetic conditions – and even to Type 2 diabetes itself.

How could this be? We must look at periodontal disease for the answer to that question. Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) is a condition in which gum tissue and bone are progressively destroyed by bacteria. This process often begins with gingivitis, which is characterized by gums that bleed easily (such as during brushing or flossing) or that are red or swollen. This inflammation is caused by plaque or tartar that collects in the small gap between the gums and each tooth. This build-up of plaque is a breeding ground for bacteria – bacteria which produce toxins that inflame and weaken the gums. Over time, the gap between the gums and teeth can become quite deep and can lead to loosening teeth and infections. At this stage, gingivitis has progressed to full-blown periodontal disease, with the eventual outcome being tooth loss.

The infections brought on by gum disease make the body less efficient at using insulin[2], which can have negative effects on blood sugar levels. Hence, the study concluded that periodontal disease may predispose the body to pre-diabetes or diabetes. On the flip side, having diabetes can increase the chance that you’ll develop periodontal disease, too, since people with diabetes are already more prone to infections.

Great, you’re thinking. So what can I do? Naturally, proper dental care is a must in order to keep your teeth and gums healthy. But surprisingly, controlling your blood sugar levels is also important in preventing periodontal disease[3]. People who maintain good control of their blood sugar levels are less likely to develop gum disease. If they do develop periodontal disease, it is generally less severe and with less tooth loss than in people who have poor control over their blood sugar levels. So, as with many diabetes-related conditions, better blood sugar levels mean better overall health.

If you’re concerned about periodontal disease and its link to diabetes, speak to your health care professionals to learn more.

[1] American Academy of Periodontology (2007, March 19). Periodontal Diseases May Aggravate Pre-diabetic Characteristics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 3, 2008, from