Periodontal (gum) disease is a general term that refers to anything from mild gum inflammation to severe damage to the soft tissue & bone that support the teeth, and there is a relationship between gum disease and gestational diabetes.
When I started reading about gum disease and gestational diabetes, I expected to find information stressing the importance of good oral hygiene when you have gestational diabetes. I assumed the higher blood sugar levels would increase the chances for gum infections since bacteria love to eat sugar. And that’s true…but the relationship between gum disease and gestational diabetes is not quite so simple.
A woman is typically diagnosed with gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28 of her pregnancy. Since blood glucose levels typically return to normal after delivery, the duration of the hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) isn’t long enough to cause more severe periodontal disease. So there had to be something else going on. One theory is that the periodontal disease may be the cause of the gestational diabetes instead of the other way around.
A 2009 study conducted at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana demonstrated an association between periodontal (gum) disease and gestational diabetes. What was interesting, however, was that with the more severe cases of periodontal disease, the chances of developing gestational diabetes were higher than the the more mild forms of periodontal disease. Developing gestational diabetes could be related to an inflammatory response to the periodontal disease combined with the stress on the body that is typical with pregnancy. It’s important to keep in mind that an association doesn’t imply a causation though. More research is needed on this, but it’s very interesting development.
When I was doing research for an article on gestational diabetes risk factors, I didn’t come across anything that mentioned periodontal disease as a risk factor for gestational diabetes. The link between gum disease and gestational diabetes is clearly still emerging. Since periodontal disease can be prevented or at least minimized with proper oral hygiene, maybe it’s possible to reduce the number of women who develop gestational diabetes by reminding women about the importance of brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist every 6 months.
I’d love to hear what you think! Please let me know by commenting below.
J Periodontol. 2009 November; 80(11): 1742-1749.