Is Periodontitis Interconnected to Diabetes? Practicing Good Nutrition and Oral Hygiene


iabetes is a complex disease that affects an estimated 30.3 million people in the United States and is expected to grow. This chronic condition can lead to heart disease,

nerve damage, irreversible kidney failure, and limb amputation. Many risk factors for this debilitating disease can stem from poor diet choices, manifested as overweight or obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels. Interestingly, diabetes risk may also be linked to oral health. Periodontitis is a severe gum bacterial infection. Mild cases

can be resolved with professional dental cleanings, but moderate to severe cases can eventually lead to jawbone damage. Symp- toms include gums that are swollen or puffy, dusky red or purplish, tender gums, and gums that bleed. Individuals diagnosed with periodontitis are unable to absorb and utilize nutrients normally, resulting in nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies can interfere with healing and repair of the gums, causing a vicious cycle of oral problems including soreness, tingling or burning of the tongue, and bleeding of the gums. There may be a link between periodontitis and diabetes. The

two conditions have similar risk factors including obesity, inflam- mation, low adiponectin (a hormone made in fat cells that is associated with lowered disease risk), and dyslipidemia (high cholesterol). Periodontitis has been connected with poor glyce- mic control in people diagnosed with diabetes. Those with dia- betes, particularly men, have an increased risk of developing moderate to severe periodontitis. Additionally, recent research suggests that periodontitis may help with early identification of those with prediabetes. This may allow for early intervention and possible prevention of developing diabetes. Both periodontitis and diabetes are associated with chronic

inflammation. The insulin resistance associated with diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels that can spark inflammation throughout the body and can further increase risk for chronic diseases. In periodontitis, chronic inflammation of the tissues that surrounds the teeth lead to formation of pockets between the teeth and gums that can result into new spaces developing between the teeth. If left untreated, this leads to increased tooth mobility and may require removal of the affected teeth. Practicing a healthy, balanced diet high in vitamins and

minerals can minimize an individual’s risk of developing both periodontitis and diabetes. Diets that are high in added sugars

and fat will increase inflammation in the body, including the gums. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-car- otene can help reduce this inflammation. Individuals with defi- ciencies of vitamin C, folic acid, and zinc appear to be more susceptible to bacterial plaque due to the increase in permeabil- ity of gingival tissues. Vitamin C, which plays a role in the repair and maintenance of teeth, can easily be found in broccoli, cabbage, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, and strawberries. Beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, can commonly be found in orange fruits and vegeta- bles like apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet po- tatoes. This carotenoid is also present in dark green leafy vege- tables. Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps fight harmful bacteria, can be found in corn and corn oil, egg yolks, nuts, olives, and whole grains. Folic acid, or Vitamin B9, is found in beets, brewer’s yeast, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, and tomatoes. Zinc, which aids in immunity, can be found in meat, milk and milk products, oysters, poultry, shellfish, and legumes. Try the lentil turkey burger recipe below with some baked sweet potato fries to consume these nutrients! In addition to eating antioxidant-rich foods, high-fiber foods can also reduce diabetes risk. Because of the way it is digested, fiber has the ability to slow absorption of sugar in foods, so blood sugars do not rise as rapidly. Fiber that comes from food such as beans, oats, and whole grains can help lower high cholesterol levels and contribute to satiety in meals that can ultimately help reach or maintain a healthy body weight. Many unrefined, plant- based foods that are already rich in antioxidants are also a good source of fiber. Maintaining a healthy body weight and keeping blood sugars and cholesterol levels in ideal ranges through daily food choices can minimize a person’s risk for diabetes.

The best way to prevent periodontitis, however, is through consistent, good oral hygiene. This includes brushing teeth for two minutes at least in the morning and before going to bed and flossing once a day. Flossing before brushing allows food particles and bacteria to be loosened and cleaned away. Another way to prevent periodontitis is through regular dental visits for regular cleanings about every six months. If you have certain risk factors, health issues, or concerns that increase your chance of getting periodontitis, you may need professional cleaning more often

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