Did you know that approximately one in ten Americans – around 37.3 million – have diabetes? And even more alarming, more than one in five people do not even know that they have the condition.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to process sugar. Most people’s bodies naturally create the hormone insulin. Insulin helps convert sugars from the food we eat into energy. However, people with diabetes either do not produce insulin, or their bodies do not use insulin properly, causing their blood sugar to rise and leading to potential health problems.
What does all of this have to do with oral health? Well, for patients with diabetes, high blood sugar can take a significant toll on their teeth and gums. Read on to learn more about the connection between diabetes and dental problems.
WHY ARE DIABETICS MORE LIKELY TO DEVELOP DENTAL PROBLEMS?
Patients with uncontrolled diabetes are at a greater risk of developing dental problems. Why? High blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes weakens white blood cells, the body’s natural defense against infections, including bacterial infections in the mouth. So when diabetic patients have problems managing their blood sugar, they risk developing teeth and gum problems.
WHAT DENTAL PROBLEMS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH DIABETES?
Below are some common dental problems often associated with diabetes:
When we consume starchy and sugary foods, the bacteria in our mouths interact with those sugars and starches to form a sticky film known as plaque. Plaque attacks the enamel and dentin on our teeth and can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. The higher a patient’s blood sugar, the more plaque they can develop.
Gum Inflammation and Gum Disease
The longer plaque builds up, the more irritated and inflamed the gingiva (the part of your gum around the base of your teeth) becomes. Eventually, plaque build-up and gum inflammation can result in gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, which can cause your teeth to loosen or lead to tooth loss.
Slower Wound Healing
Diabetes and age impact the time it takes a wound to heal; this can cause a greater risk of infection after dental procedures or oral surgery for those with uncontrolled diabetes. However, for many patients with well-maintained diabetes, post-operative issues are often similar to those who do not have diabetes.
Uncontrolled diabetes can reduce saliva, causing a dry mouth (xerostomia). Certain medications can also cause a dry mouth. A dry mouth can lead to dental problems like tooth decay, ulcers, soreness, and infection.
People with diabetes who frequently take antibiotics are at risk of developing thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue. Thrush thrives on high glucose levels found in the saliva of people with uncontrolled diabetes. Dentures can also increase the likelihood of oral fungal infections.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Thrush and dry mouth can result in burning mouth syndrome, a sensation similar to burning your mouth or tongue with a hot drink. Burning mouth syndrome may also cause a patient to feel numbness or tingling in their mouth.
Change in Taste
Diabetes and age can result in a change in or even loss of taste. If you notice a persistent bad taste in your mouth, speak with your doctor or dentist.
HOW CAN DIABETICS HELP PREVENT DENTAL PROBLEMS?
The good news is that diabetic patients can reduce the likelihood of dental problems with some teamwork from their dentist and implementing self-care practices at home. Some suggestions to help prevent dental problems for people with diabetes include:
- Control your blood sugar levels as much as possible.
- Quit smoking.
- Remove and clean your dentures every day to avoid fungal infections.
- Brush twice a day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss daily.
- See your dentist for regular checkups, cleanings, and X-rays. Don’t forget to inform your dentist that you have diabetes!
If you notice any changes in your oral health, we recommend that you contact your dentist immediately, as diabetics are more susceptible to conditions that can harm their oral health.
TALK TO YOUR DENTIST ABOUT DIABETES | THE LANDING DENTAL SPA
If you have questions about how diabetes can affect your oral health, we invite you to make an appointment at The Landing Dental Spa. Located in Morgantown, West Virginia, our relaxing environment is sure to calm and soothe you as our caring staff adequately treats you. For a comfortable, relaxing, and spa-like dental appointment, call us today at 304-594-2200 or contact us online here. We look forward to making you smile!