Diabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood glucose (blood sugar) is abnormally high. Blood glucose is made from the food you eat and is the body’s main source of energy. When the body does not make enough glucose, the supply you do have stays in your blood and does not reach your cells to be used for energy.
Diabetes can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, and fatigue, as well as your overall oral health. People with uncontrolled diabetes face a higher risk of oral health problems, as the condition can weaken white blood cells, which are the body’s main defense against bacterial infections.
Oral Health Problems Associated with Diabetes
If you are living with diabetes, it is important to pay close attention to your oral health. Today, more than 30 million Americans have diabetes and an additional 84 million have prediabetes. While diabetes can often be managed with a balanced diet, insulin, exercise, and medications, you will want to be aware of red flags that could indicate that your condition is affecting your oral health. If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to reach out to your dentist as soon as possible to determine if any changes to your oral health regimen are needed.
High Blood Sugar and Plaque Buildup
Your saliva contains glucose, which helps your mouth stay moist and aids in the washing away of harmful bacteria. However, when too much glucose is present in your saliva, bacteria can actually start to grow. When these bacteria combine with food particles, a sticky film of plaque can form on the teeth. Plaque buildup can result in a wide range of oral health problems, such as gum disease, tooth decay, and even the need for tooth extractions.
Diabetes and Periodontal Disease
Periodontal (gum) disease is a type of gum infection that can cause irreversible damage to the gums and can eventually destroy the jawbone. While periodontal disease is preventable with good oral hygiene, certain conditions like diabetes can increase a person’s risk of developing an infection.
When plaque is left on the teeth and allowed to harden, it forms tartar or calculus. Tartar and calculus can then irritate the gums, causing them to become swollen and red. You may even experience bleeding. As gum disease progresses, the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth can be lost. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may even fall out or need to be removed.
Periodontal disease is more common in people with high glucose levels, as these individuals often have a lower resistance to infection. In addition, people with diabetes are usually slower to heal. Unfortunately, periodontal disease cannot be reversed through brushing and flossing alone, your dentist, and maybe even a periodontist will need to get involved. With proper treatment, gum disease can be managed to achieve increased oral health.
Other Ways Diabetes Can Impact Oral Health
As a diabetic, you will also face higher risks for tooth decay. People with diabetes often experience a slow down in saliva production. This can result in dry mouth, otherwise known as xerostomia. Without an adequate supply of salvia, bacteria can continue to grow unchecked. Dry mouth can also contribute to sores and ulcers in the mouth, as well as tooth decay.
You may also experience oral fungal infections as a diabetic. Oral thrush, also known as candidiasis, is a type of fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the yeast, Candida albicans. Certain conditions caused by diabetes, such as dry mouth, poor resistance to infection, and high glucose in saliva, can contribute to oral thrush. With oral thrush, you may experience symptoms like ulcers and red or white patches in the mouth.
Diabetes and Your New Oral Health Plan
If you have been recently diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice about medication and diet to maintain optimal blood glucose levels. Continue to brush your teeth and gums twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride. Use floss daily to clean between your teeth. If it has been more than six months since you have seen a dentist, schedule your dental teeth cleaning with Artistic Touch Dentistry today.