Diabetes and Oral Health
Did you know that there is a link between diabetes and oral health? Like other diseases triggered by diabetes, you can get periodontal and gum disease if you don’t maintain good oral hygiene. In case you didn’t know, periodontitis and diabetes tend to wreak havoc on each other. First off, the medication you use to manage diabetes makes your mouth dry and vulnerable to dental caries and periodontitis.
What research says about diabetes and oral health
Research(1) shows that treating dental problems such as gum diseases can improve blood sugar control. Great oral hygiene and treatment for diabetic patients lead to a reduction in your HbA1c (this is a measure of the average level of your blood sugar for about 3 months).
Therefore, it is important to have regular dental visits for deep cleaning and check-ups. Doing so helps regulate your blood sugar, reduces your chances of developing gum disease, and improves quality of life.
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Why diabetic patients are more prone to oral problems
High blood sugar is the link between diabetes and oral health issues. When you have diabetes, the body is unable to correctly convert excess sugar into energy. The excess sugar stays in your bloodstream, which weakens the immune system.
When immunity is low, the body can easily get infections. If you don’t take your health seriously and fail to manage your blood sugar, then your mouth develops an overgrowth of bacteria. These bacteria then lead to gum problems, bad breath and even loss of teeth.
Likewise, if your blood has high blood sugar content, this also means that the content of sugar in your saliva is also high. This creates an optimum breeding ground for harmful bacteria, increasing the chances of developing oral problems.
Dental treatment and blood sugar levels
Diabetes affects dental treatment, especially when it comes to tooth extraction. Over time, the consistent circulation of sugar in the blood leads to damage in the nerves and blood vessels. This can lead to complications and increase the likelihood of developing a stroke or heart attack. So, if you have diabetes, before seeking dental treatment, consult with your doctor as well as your dentist. This ensures that you are covered in case of any emergencies and complications.
Risk factors for patients with diabetes
Tooth decay (cavities)
The bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar. Therefore, patients with diabetes are vulnerable to tooth decay because of high saliva and blood glucose levels.
Diabetic patients who eat a lot of refined carbohydrates or foods with high sugar content are also at a higher risk of tooth decay.
Gingivitis and periodontitis
Diabetic patients mainly have narrowed blood vessels that slow down the flow of essential nutrients to body tissues. Consequently, this affects the flow of waste products from the tissues, thus weakening the white blood cells, which are vital to fighting infections. As a result, diabetic patients frequently experience severe gum diseases and bacterial infections.
Delayed healing of oral tissues
Patients with diabetes produce hormones and enzymes that prevent their immune system from functioning normally. This way, their immune system becomes less effective, thus delaying the healing process of the oral tissues.
Burning mouth/ tongue
The burning mouth syndrome also referred to as burning tongue, is a condition where you feel as if your tongue and the roof of your mouth are burning. Although this condition can ‘come out of the blue,’ for diabetic patients, it is usually caused by the presence of thrush.
Diabetic patients who use antibiotics to treat various infections are at a higher risk of developing mouth thrush. Oral thrush is a fungal infection that tends to thrive more in areas with high glucose level concentration such as saliva. Wearing dentures for a prolonged time can also cause a fungal infection.
Some patients with diabetes experience a reduction in the quantity of their saliva, causing a condition known as dry mouth. The bad thing about dry mouth is that the mouth loses the lubricant and protective effects of saliva and it can further lead to ulcers, other infections and even tooth decay.
Caring for your teeth and gums
Schedule regular visits to your dentist
You need regular dental check-ups and deep cleaning to keep your oral health in check. Your dentist needs to regularly examine your mouth for sores, thrush, or fungal infections. If you don’t go for check-ups, then these things can go unnoticed and further worsen your overall health. You might even lose your teeth due to un-noticed infections.
Inform your dentist that you have diabetes
Always ensure that each time you visit your dentist, they know that you have diabetes. This helps avoid complications. Also, share your doctor’s contacts with your dentist.
Stay committed to managing your diabetes
Since diabetes and oral health are correlated, you need to stay committed to managing diabetes. Doing so reduces the likelihood of developing oral diseases. Always check your blood sugar and keep it within the normal range.
Stay alert for early symptoms of gum disease
Always look out for gum disease. Check for reddening and bleeding of the gums. Also, watch out for swelling and loose teeth. These are all symptoms of gum disease.
Brush at least twice a day
Regular oral hygiene is important. See to it that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. Doing it consistently will reduce the likelihood of bacterial overgrowth.
Floss at least once daily
Smoking places you at a higher risk of diabetes complications. If you smoke regularly, you will trigger oral diseases among other complex issues.
Where to get help
Your dentist or dental hygienist has the know-how to help with any oral health issues. During your first visit to the dentist, let them know that you are diabetic. This information will help them not only treat you well but also advise you on various oral health issues.
How your dentist can help you fight diabetes
Your dentist can help you fight diabetes by doing regular cleanings and x-rays. Treating gum disease as early as possible can also help keep the blood sugar in check and decrease diabetes progression.
Diabetes and oral health issues are interlinked. So you need to be extremely cautious when it comes to how you manage your oral health and blood sugar. Develop some excellent oral hygiene practices to avoid unnecessary oral diseases.
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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.