When you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels have an effect on your entire body – including your mouth. For those who haven’t experienced diabetes, it can be difficult to find a connection between the chronic health condition and a person’s oral health. However, the condition has plenty to do with the health of your teeth and gums, and knowing the facts can help to prevent issues and manage any that arise.
So, we are all familiar with diabetes – a long-lasting, chronic condition that affects how the body turns food and drink into energy. Diabetes means that the body doesn’t process this food and drink properly, meaning sugar levels in the blood, and the amount of a hormone, called insulin are difficult to control.
Diabetes causes a range of symptoms, from fatigue and weakness to increased urination and thirst. It’s important to manage, because a sharp drop or rise in your blood glucose levels – often called Hypos and Hypers, can cause serious health implications – including shaking, sweating, fainting and even coma. Diabetes is managed by a controlled diet and special medications, often including insulin injections.
But one side effect it can also cause is oral health issues. Where you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, mismanaged blood sugar levels heighten your risk of problems.
One of the more well-known mouth ailments in the dental world is gum disease. Gum disease is caused by plaque and tartar, a hard film of bacteria, forming under your gum line. This causes your gums to become red, swollen, sore and you may find they bleed easily too. The early stages of gum disease, called Gingivitis, can then form into an advanced stage if left untreated, called Periodontitis. This later stage gum disease is a serious gum infection, which breaks down the gum tissue and eventually the bone of your jaw. This leads to teeth loss because your mouth physically cannot support your teeth, and it becomes difficult to stop the spread of infection.
Because a side effect of Diabetes is an impacted immune system, a Diabetic can find it harder to prevent and fight off infection. Not being able to ward off bacteria means that plaque and tartar levels are often higher than in patients without diabetes, and early gum disease advances quickly. A good tooth brushing regime, immune-boosting supplements and foods and getting a good amount of rest can help to keep your immune system in good condition and lower your risk of the disease.
Thrush is a fungal infection caused by a yeast called Candida Albicans. It’s a yeast naturally found all over the body, but when your immune system is suppressed it can become overwhelming to the body and cause yeast infections, including thrush of the mouth. This takes the form of painful patches in the mouth and on the tongue, often bright white or red in colour. Luckily, regular and efficient brushing and using mouthwash can help to prevent Candida Albicans from becoming an issue and keeps painful mouth sores at bay.
An excessively dry mouth, called Xerostomia, is caused by your salivary glands being unable to produce enough saliva to keep your mouth lubricated. Saliva keeps your mouth moist and hydrated, as well as bathing the teeth, so a lack of saliva can not only be uncomfortable but boost the risk of all the above conditions because your teeth are not being naturally ‘washed’ by your saliva. Ensuring you are properly hydrated can help with this, as well as specifically formulated lozenges and medications that are available from your pharmacist or doctor.
Although the above points seem negative, there are plenty of preventative measures to help keep them at bay. Keeping up a good tooth cleaning routine is one of the biggest things you can do to ensure your oral health remains in top shape. Make sure you are brushing at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste, and floss to help remove any plaque starting to form under the gumline. Visiting your dentist at least twice a year also means that any early signs of problems can be picked up on – as the earlier these problems are spotted, the easier they are to treat. It also helps massively if you are a smoker, to quit or cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke.
It’s a good idea to make your dentist aware that you have diabetes so that they can pay particular attention to diabetes-related tooth issues, and doing your best to control your blood glucose levels and manage your diabetes can have a positive impact on your whole body – not just your mouth.
If you’d like to visit one of our friendly, expert dentists for a check-up, contact your local Oradent Dental Care practices today, where we would be happy to help you.