5 Ways Diabetes Can Impact Your Oral Heath
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases today. In fact, 29.1 million people in the US have diabetes and millions more don’t know they are diabetic. This equates to one in eleven people.
You may know that diabetes can result in vision loss, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, but did you know that diabetes can negatively impact your oral health?
Diabetes & Gum Disease
Gum Disease, aka periodontal disease…..can lead to tooth loss
Poorly managed blood glucose levels increases your risk for gum disease. Gum disease, aka periodontal disease, is inflammation of the hard and soft tissue that holds your teeth in your jawbone. Inflammation is minimized with good oral hygiene care that includes brushing two times daily and flossing one time per day.
Left behind dental plaque gives rise to inflammation of the tissues that support our teeth. This inflammation, also known as gingivitis, is a reversible stage of periodontal disease. Left untreated, gingivitis will progress to periodontitis, a permanent loss of bone that holds teeth in the jawbone. There is no known cure for periodontitis. As teeth become loose, tooth extraction becomes inevitable.
Diabetics have an elevated risk for periodontal disease due to their decreased ability to fight inflammation and bacterial infection.
Additionally, there is emerging research that suggests that “people with periodontal disease are at an elevated risk to develop diabetes” (Source: American Diabetes Association)
Diabetes & Dry Mouth
Dry Mouth…..increases risk to develop tooth decay
Studies have found that diabetics have less saliva. Two reasons why, high blood glucose levels and side effects from prescription medication. High blood glucose levels result in increased thirst. Drinking water throughout your day provides moist tissues and helps to keep you adequately hydrated. A large number of medications list dry mouth as an adverse side effect.
Dry mouth is also known as xerostomia (pronounce zero-sto-mia). Xerostomia can range from mild to severe. A healthy, continuous flow of saliva in the mouth helps reduce the stagnation of harmful, bacterial dental plaque. Saliva, maintains moist gum tissue, helps wash away food particles, and helps to buffer the ph level in your mouth. A low ph, below 5.5 increase your risk to develop tooth decay.
People with dry mouth often suck on hard candy or drinks containing sugar. This is a double edge sword for diabetics. One, your blood sugar rises too high and your risk of tooth decay increases dramatically. If you have dry mouth, consult with your dentist or dental hygienist for appropriate recommendations.
There are a few products available over the counter called saliva substitutes. One brand to try is Biotene. Biotene is widely available at most retail stores with a pharmacy.
Diabetes & Taste
Altered Taste…..can lead to nutritional deficiencies
Several studies highlight that diabetics often experience a change in taste for certain foods they once enjoyed.
Why? Dr. Chia at the National Institute for Aging, reported ”we found that the number of taste buds on the tongue had a connection to our age and how our body handles sugar”, meaning that decreased satiety from the intake of desired foods with a pleasurable taste may increase the quantity of the food eaten thus leading to increased obesity and above normal blood glucose levels.
Diabetes & Infection
Infection…..can result in painful toothache
Diabetes affects the strength of your body’s immune system. In the mouth, there are a number of potential lesions and/or infections that may appear if blood glucose and oral hygiene care practices are not optimal. Conditions including fungal or bacterial infection, and/or a periodontal abscess may give rise to symptoms of inflammation and pain.
Thrush is a common fungal infection among diabetics who have a dry mouth, take prescribed steroids or antibiotics, smoke,
wear dentures, or have poorly managed glucose levels. Treatment for fungal infections often require prescription medications and/or prescription mouthwash.
A periodontal abscess develops in a deep gum disease pocket as
a result of bacteria toxins. These toxins invade the jawbone that supports your teeth. A periodontal abscess is often extremely painful and studies have shown that diabetics periodontitis are at greater risk to develop a periodontal abscess.
Diabetes & Delayed Healing Post Dental Care
Slow to Heal…..due to compromised immune system
Diabetics who develop cold sores, mouth sores, and/or following dental surgeries such as tooth extraction and periodontal surgery take longer to recover and heal. Reduced blood flow, inflammatory response, and stress are all factors shown to delay healing.
Early detection and treatment of diabetes helps to reduce the risk of developing complications. Diabetes symptoms often include:
- Feeling thirsty
- Feeling hungry even though you have eaten
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Extreme fatigue,tired
- Unexplained weight loss
- Tingling, pain, or numbness feeling in hands and/or your feet
Source: American Diabetes Association
Schedule an appointment with your medical doctor if you suspect that you or a loved one may have diabetic. Your doctor will discuss your symptoms, family history, and order blood work to calculate your blood glucose levels. This blood test is called an A1C test. Diabetes is diagnosed if your A1C is 6.5% or greater.
If you have diabetes, your medical and dental provider will ask you what your A1C levels are at each appointment.
Difference between Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, formerly called juvenile diabetes. Only roughly 5% of diabetics have Type 1. Type 1 diabetics are insulin dependent for life.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2, the most common form of diabetes is vastly different from Type 1. Type 2 diabetics produce insulin, but their body does not use insulin properly. This is referred to as insulin resistance.