When most people think of diabetics, they think about restrictions on eating sugar. However, people with diabetes also need to understand the effects of this condition on their oral health. While diabetics should follow the same general oral health advice Dr. Sharma gives to every other patient, it becomes even more important to take care of their mouths.
Explore some of the ways that diabetes affects your oral health so you are better prepared to keep your mouth healthy.
Diabetes Increases the Risk of Certain Oral Health Conditions
To put the connection between diabetes and oral health, people with diabetes have a higher risk of certain oral health issues. This increased risk is thanks to high blood sugar levels. Because blood sugar levels are to blame for most of these interactions, diabetics can reduce the effects by keeping their blood sugar low.
The following provides more detail about the most common issues.
Cavities and Tooth Decay
Remember that your mouth contains various bacteria. The sugar and starch that you eat will feed these bacteria, forming plaque. The plaque contains acid that attacks your tooth dentin and enamel. That, in turn, leads to gum disease and cavities.
Diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar will have higher supplies of sugars and starches. That means they also have more acid in their mouth that wears away at their teeth.
Gingivitis and Early Gum Disease
We already mentioned that the increased sugar and starches in the mouth contribute to the build-up of plaque and its ability to attack your tooth enamel. Diabetes also makes it harder for your body to fight off bacteria. This also encourages the build-up of plaque.
As is the case with anyone, if you don’t remove the plaque (via flossing and brushing), it can harden into tartar. Over time, plaque and tartar irritate your gums, specifically the parts that connect with your teeth. Eventually, that irritation can lead to swelling and bleeding.
Periodontitis (Advanced Gum Disease)
Anyone who develops gingivitis and doesn’t treat it is at risk of periodontitis. Because of the increased risk of gingivitis in diabetics, the risk of periodontitis is also higher. The bone and soft tissue supporting your teeth become damaged with this condition.
If left untreated, your jawbone and gums can pull from the teeth. This can lead to teeth loosening or even falling out in extreme cases.
The higher risk of gingivitis isn’t the only reason people with diabetes have a risk of periodontitis. The other factor is that diabetes slows healing and makes it harder to resist infection. That makes it more likely for the gum disease to progress to periodontitis in diabetics.
To make matters worse, periodontitis and other infections can increase blood sugar. Since blood sugar is already to blame for worsened dental conditions, this can create a vicious cycle.
Although not all diabetics experience it, many have a dry mouth. This is when there is a lack of saliva in the mouth.
This is a problem for your oral health as your saliva moistens your mouth and helps keep your teeth clean. That means that when diabetics have less saliva, this increases their risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and thrush.
Speaking of thrush, this is a fungal infection that Candida albicans, a yeast, causes. The infection typically includes red or white patches inside the mouth.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
The combination of dry mouth and thrush can also cause burning mouth syndrome. The risk may be higher if you take high blood pressure medicines. As the name implies, this syndrome is when it feels as if you just burned your mouth with a hot drink. It can lead to tingling and numbness or even some loss of taste.
Slower Healing of Wounds
It is also worth noting that diabetics’ wounds take longer to heal. This means that you have a higher risk of infection, and your risk of an oral infection worsening is increased.
People With Diabetes Should Follow Regular Oral Hygiene Recommendations
With all the above information in mind, what do diabetics need to do to take care of their mouths and oral health? Start by following all of the same advice as everyone else, including:
- Brush at least twice per day
- Floss at least once per day
- Have regular dental cleanings
- Don’t smoke
Remember that brushing and flossing help prevent plaque and tartar from ever forming. This reduces your risk of cavities, gum disease, and other issues.
But They Also Need to Follow Additional Advice
But diabetics can’t just follow the standard dental advice and assume everything is fine. They should also do the following.
Manage Your Diabetes
As mentioned, many of the negative effects that diabetes has on your oral health come from high blood sugar levels. This means that if you can keep your blood sugar within the target range your doctor gives you, you should have a much lower risk of the above complications.
Tell Dr. Sharma You Are Diabetic
The first time you visit Dr. Dhiraj Sharma after your diabetes diagnosis, be sure to let him know. This is also the time to ensure that he has the contact information for the doctor treating your diabetes.
Pay Extra Attention to Early Symptoms
While everyone should be on the lookout for early signs of gum disease or other oral health issues, this is especially true for people with diabetes. In other words, let your dentist know as soon as possible if you notice mouth pain, loose teeth, or dry mouth.
Know When to Contact Your Dentist
In addition to watching out for those symptoms, you should know when to contact your dentist to schedule an appointment. In addition to regular cleanings, call to make an appointment if you are diabetic and:
- You have bad breath that doesn’t go away
- Your gums are sore or bleeding
- You get infections frequently
The Bottom Line
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing cavities and gum disease because of their increased blood sugar levels. In addition to the standard oral hygiene suggestions, such as brushing and flossing, diabetics should be sure to tell their dentist they have diabetes. You can also reduce the risk of oral complications from diabetes by keeping your blood sugar in control.
Looking to schedule your regular dental appointment? Reach out to our office in Downtown Chicago to schedule today!