Diabetes – COVID – Gum Disease
The recent pandemic has shed light on the detrimental effects of diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from serious complications if they contract COVID-19. The same is true for prediabetic patients. Gum disease is also a risk factor for developing diabetes. To better understand this relationship we need to first see what diabetes is and how it affects us.
Diabetes – A Hormonal Deficiency
Diabetes refers to a group of disorders where our body is not able to use what we eat for energy. This disease affects almost 10% of the US population. And of these, one of every four don’t even know they have diabetes. There are 2 main types of diabetes. The first affects younger individuals. The other affects the older population and is the most prevalent form. In short, diabetes interferes with our body’s ability to use food for energy and storage.
The foods we eat fall into one of 3 categories: carbohydrates (i.e. pasta, bread, rice, sugars), proteins (i.e. meat, chicken, etc.) and fats (oil, butter, etc). Our bodies though cannot use the food in this form. Before our body can use the food for energy, our digestive system needs to break down these foods into their smallest digestible form. Glucose is a common end product of digestion that our body can use for energy. We need insulin (a hormone) to be able to use this glucose. When our body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or when our body becomes resistant to insulin, it cannot use the glucose circulating in our blood. This results in an elevated blood sugar level, which is a common finding in diabetic and pre-diabetic patients.
Diabetes and COVID-19
It’s not what you think. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you’ll contract COVID-19 automatically. But it can cause some serious problems if you do get COVID-19. To better understand this let’s imagine the following scenario. If you were to have a twin, you and your twin will be identical in every way genetically. Let us also assume that you and your twin lead the same exact lifestyle, eating same foods, exercising the same, etc. In this case if you two contracted COVID-19 somehow, you’ll have similar symptoms and reactions. But if one of you is diabetic or pre-diabetic, they will likely have more serious complications from COVID. Diabetes negatively impacts our immune system and that is why we see patients with diabetes have more serious and life threatening complications from COVID-19.
Diabetes – Gum Disease – Root Cavities
Gum disease is the most common form of oral disease affecting the diabetic population. In fact, gum disease is considered a risk factor for developing diabetes. 1 out of every 5 diabetics have serious gum disease. And there are multiple reasons. Gum disease starts in between the teeth, usually because of inadequate or no flossing whatsoever. This disease, like all other diseases, causes inflammation. Consequently, more blood is pumped into the gums because the body is trying to fight the disease. That’s why the gums look red and swollen in patients with gum disease. However, this response by our body actually results in destruction of the bone around the teeth. Gum disease challenges our immune system. And diabetic people have a compromised immune system. This extra load on the immune system makes the body more susceptible to contracting other diseases and ailments. Furthermore, gum disease like other diseases, causes further rise in our blood sugar. This spells even bigger problems for diabetic patients placing them at risk for hyperglycemia which can lead to shock. It is also important to look at the link between gum disease and heart disease. Diabetes also decreases the amount of saliva we produce. As a result of decreased saliva our teeth are more likely to develop cavities especially on the root surfaces.
Controlling Gum Disease
Considering what we have just discussed, any diabetic patient should heed their doctor’s advise to control their blood sugar levels by taking the appropriate measures. Preventing disease in the body to reduce the load on the immune system should also be a priority. Treating gum disease and preventing its return is essential to the diabetic patient. Your dentist can help treat gum disease and help you maintain healthy gums. This way your body will be better prepared to deal with other diseases and ailments. If you haven’t been to the dentist for a while or you don’t have a dentist simply contact our staff. We will get you an appointment to evaluate your dental health and help prevent bigger problems with your overall health.