If you have diabetes, you already know that a specific treatment program will help control high blood sugar and lead to a healthier life. But did you know that diabetes can also affect your oral health?
The Cleveland Clinic reports that “the link between diabetes and oral health problems is high blood sugar. If blood sugar is poorly controlled, oral health problems are more likely to develop. This is because uncontrolled diabetes weakens white blood cells, which are the body’s main defense against bacterial infections that can occur in the mouth.”
Some of the oral health problems that can result from diabetes include:
• Mouth Dryness. Diabetes can reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth, and lead to mouth soreness, ulcers, infections and tooth decay. To fight dry mouth, chew sugarless gum and eat healthy, crunchy foods.
• Loss of Taste. Diabetes can reduce your ability to taste flavors. Boost flavors with herbs and spices, but avoid adding extra sugar.
• Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Diabetes can cause blood vessels to thicken, which slows the ability of the body to process nutrients and eject waste products from body tissue, including from the mouth. Without the body’s normal ability to fight infection, bacteria can build up, creating gum inflammation and gum disease.
• Slow Healing. Diabetes can impair the body’s ability to heal quickly. This can prevent quick healing from oral procedures such as oral surgery.
• Fungal Infection, or Thrush. Fungal infections of the mouth, and the burning sensation that accompanies them, can occur in people with diabetes who take antibiotics frequently. Oral thrush is a yeast infection that thrives on the higher levels of sugar in your saliva. It can be indicated by a white film or coating on the tongue and inside the cheeks, and is found more often in people who wear dentures.
The risk of oral problems in smokers who have diabetes is even higher—about 20% higher than nonsmokers. This may be caused by the reduced blood flow to the gums caused by smoking.
The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that more than 29 million people living in the United States have diabetes—almost 10% of the population—and about 8 million have diabetes and don’t even know it.
Your mouth is filled with microscopic bacteria, and that is perfectly normal. With diabetes, the high blood sugar, if uncontrolled, can allow bacteria to grow out of control. This makes you more susceptible to gum infections.
How to Help Prevent Diabetes-Related Oral Health Problems
A few lifestyle changes can go a long way in preventing diabetes-related oral health problems:
• Eat a healthy diet
• Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
• Control blood sugar levels with diabetes-related medications
• Stop smoking
• Clean dentures daily
• Brush twice a day; floss once a day
• Visit your dentist for regular cleanings and dental health examinations
Diabetes can occur at any age, and if you have diabetes, tell your dentist. Your dental health care and dental treatments can be structured to help ensure a healthy mouth.
Live in Northern Virginia? Contact EverSmile Dentistry.
At EverSmile Dentistry, we want to ensure that all of our patients receive the very best in best dental care. Discuss your diabetes symptoms with us so we can help develop a treatment plan to ensure good dental health throughout your lifetime. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.