What causes gum disease in people with diabetes?

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Research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes. When you have gum disease, germs work to destroy your gums (gingiva) and the bone around your teeth. It starts with plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of food, saliva and germs. Plaque loves to settle at the gum line. There, germs get busy making your gums red, tender and likely to bleed.

The severe form of gum disease is called periodontitis. When you reach this stage, your gums begin to pull away from your teeth. Pockets form between your teeth and gums. These fill with germs and pus, and deepen. When this happens, you may need gum surgery to save your teeth. If nothing is done, the infection goes on to destroy the bone around your teeth. The teeth may start to move or get loose. Your teeth may fall out or need to be pulled.

While gum disease may not hurt, there are warning signs to watch for:

  • Bleeding gums when you brush or floss. This bleeding is not normal. Even if your gums don't hurt, get them checked.
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from teeth. Part of the tooth's root may show, or your teeth may look longer.
  • Pus between the teeth and gums (when you press on the gums)
  • Bad breath
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
  • Changes in the fit of partial dentures or bridges

If you have any of the above, see your dentist.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.