Diabetes is a chronic disease that, on the surface, has nothing directly to do with your teeth or gums. However, people who are affected by diabetes can often experience unexpected consequences related to their oral health, making it important to know the areas of increased risk.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can often be one of the initial symptoms of diabetes and can continue to be an issue long-term, particularly when diabetes is left untreated. Even for those treating and managing their diabetes, dry mouth can persist, although it is unclear if the condition is caused by diabetes itself or is a side-effect of medications commonly used for treatment. Regardless of the root cause for dry mouth, because saliva protects and cleanses your teeth and mouth, the condition is not just a matter of discomfort.
To learn more about the risks to your teeth and gums associated with dry mouth, and for some tips on treating this condition, read our Dental Library article here.
Since saliva is important for cleansing your teeth and mouth, dry mouth can make you more susceptible to tooth decay. It’s important to take close care of your oral hygiene at home, and to schedule regular professional cleanings to remove built-up tartar.
Learn more about the importance of professional cleanings, and how often a visit to the dentist’s office is necessary, in our blog post here. Get some tips for oral hygiene at home here, and information about toothbrushes, toothbrushing technique, and toothpastes here.
People with diabetes experience slower healing of wounds, and this means that even minor cuts or injuries need to be taken seriously and watched carefully, as they can turn into serious health concerns.
In terms of oral health, this delay in healing is a factor for procedures like extractions or implants, or conditions like gum disease. It is essential that blood sugar levels are monitored with extra diligence while wounds are healing, and that wounds are kept clean and watched carefully for infection.
Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease) and Gingivitis
Some research has found that people with diabetes who do not have their blood glucose levels regulated experienced higher rates of gingivitis. Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease (periodontal disease), and should be taken seriously – remember that damage to your gum tissue is not reversible! Gum disease is the most common dental disease affecting people with diabetes, and as with any serious infection, gum disease can actually cause the blood sugar to rise. Conversely, treating gum disease can also help you to get your blood sugar levels under control.
To learn more about why gum disease happens and how to prevent it, read our Dental Library article here.
Thrush is a yeast infection that causes white lesions on the tongue, cheeks, or roof of the mouth. Like gum disease, people with diabetes can be more susceptible to these infections as well, and the infection can cause blood sugar levels to rise. Properly controlling blood sugar levels is important in preventing infections.
Working with Your Dentist to Protect Your Oral Health
Your dentist can help you to manage the risks to your oral health associated with diabetes. First things first, make sure you tell your dentist if you have diabetes. Your dentist may suggest scheduling your regular cleanings and check-ups more frequently, and may recommend other changes to your oral hygiene or other habits that will help you to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Tell your dentist about the medications you take, and bring your glucometer with you to your appointment.
We’re always here to help you with your oral health! If you have questions or concerns, or just need to book that cleaning, you can get in touch with us here.