Almost 26 million Americans live with the effects of diabetes – nearly ten percent of the U.S. population. Diabetes is a condition that requires those afflicted with the disease to make lifestyle changes. These changes include a change in diet, lifestyle, and the medications they take. It also means that they need to change the way they take care of their teeth and gums.
Poorly controlled diabetes puts you at risk of developing periodontal disease. The National Institutes of Health reports that one-third of people with diabetes have severe periodontal disease. This disease causes the gum tissue and bone around the teeth to break down. And in the last few years, many dentists have seen an increase in the number of patients with diabetes.
Blood Sugar Management
People with diabetes are usually more prone to bacterial infection. The connection to poor oral health and diabetes is blood sugar management. People with diabetes have elevated blood sugar, which affects the immune-fighting cells and the blood supply to many areas of the body. Poor circulation negatively affects the blood vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the gums and the cells in your mouth that fight infection.
Oral Health Problems Due to Diabetes
There is a common misconception that people with diabetes are more prone to cavities or losing teeth– but that is not always true. People with their blood sugar under control are no more likely to develop tooth decay than people without diabetes. It comes down to proper glucose management. Poor blood sugar management causes people with diabetes to be susceptible to:
Saliva is vital when it comes to the health of your mouth and gums. It helps remove and flush away harmful bacteria from your mouth. To make matters worse, having a flawed immune system can make having a dry mouth will only make it worse. Consistent dry mouth can lead to soreness, diseases, and tooth decay since it creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Some medications for diabetes may cause dry mouth as a side effect, so keeping your blood sugar in check is crucial. When it is not under control, you put yourself at risk of sustaining an infection in your mouth. Saliva protects the tooth from more prone to a cavity and decay.
Gingivitis and periodontal disease
People with diabetes who cannot control their blood glucose are more prone to bleeding gums (or gingivitis), which is painful and uncomfortable. Diabetes can also cause blood vessels to condense. It becomes harder to receive nutrients and for the body to get rid of waste. Over time, you increase your risk of infections, and gum diseases can manifest quicker and more severely.
Poor healing of tissue
People with diabetes tend to heal slower, negatively affecting them after any oral surgery or dental procedure. With diabetes, blood flow is altered and does not function efficiently. Even a simple dental appointment for cleaning could be painful or irritating from a dental hygienist’s tools. Dentists will typically ask for a health history to know when doing any procedures on a person with diabetes, primarily if they may have poorly managed blood sugar. When it comes to implanting a crown or a filling, treatment should be held off until the patient can control their diabetes.
People with diabetes are often on antibiotics to help control bacterial infections. Unfortunately, these antibiotics make them prone to fungal infections in the mouth and on the tongue. Dentures can also cause fungus to form, especially if they are constantly worn or not cleaned properly.
How your dentist can help
Regular dental visits are essential because dentists can catch conditions before they get worse. Treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes and decrease disease progression.
Your Diabetes Dental Health Action Plan
With the combination of self-care and professional dental care, you can take the steps you need to keep your smile healthy and even slowing the progression of diabetes. Some health-related things you can do include:
- Monitor your blood sugar levels
- Use your medications as directed
- Follow to a healthier diet and exercise routine
- Avoid smoking
- Clean your dentures every day
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once
- See your dentist for regular checkups
If you are someone living with diabetes and you are interested in learning more about how Foothill Dental Care in Livermore can help you, give us a call today at (925) 961-5484.