Dental Care for the Diabetic

Introduction - World diabetic day and importance of oral health

World Diabetes Day is an important annual campaign intended to spread awareness and aid in knowledge of the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diabetes. Diabetes is a significant global health issue, shockingly with 537 million people living with diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Unfortunately, existing medicine and care are not made available to millions of individuals with diabetes. This year’s theme, “Access to Diabetes Care – If Not Now, When?” reminds us that the fight to make diabetes care more accessible to everyone in need must start now.

Oral Health Diabetics

Diabetes is a condition that impacts the body as a whole, even the mouth. As a result, oral health plays an important part in diabetes management. Research suggests that there is a two-way relationship between gum disease and diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are more likely to suffer from a more serious stage of gum disease, known as periodontal disease, but also individuals with periodontal disease may negatively impact blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Why diabetic people are more susceptible to dental issues

Individuals with diabetes have a higher risk for experiencing oral problems. Poorly controlled blood sugar can weaken the body’s immune system, making it harder to fight off infections and heal properly. As a result, individuals with diabetes often are less able to efficiently fight oral bacterial infections like gum disease. This is why it is extremely important to maintain good oral health as well as blood sugar levels.

Oral health problems associated with diabetes

Compared to non-diabetics, diabetics are more likely to certain oral health issues including:

  • Dry Mouth: Dry mouth is a condition in which there is a decrease in saliva flow. In turn, dry mouth can lead to the development of ulcers, oral infections, and tooth decay.
  • Gum Disease: Gingivitis in an early stage of gum disease characterized by inflamed gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease. Individuals with diabetes may have a hard time managing this bacterial infection and may lead to loose teeth, bone loss, and eventually tooth loss.
  • Oral Thrush: Compared to non-diabetics, individuals with diabetes have an increased risk of developing this fungal infection characterized by white lesions within the mouth. The fungus Candida albicans flourishes when high sugar levels are present within saliva. This infection may cause a burning sensation within the mouth. In addition, people who wear dentures may experience oral thrush as a result of improper cleaning or failing to remove dentures before sleeping.

Symptoms to look out for

Some oral signs and symptoms that may occur as a result of poorly controlled diabetes and oral health include:

  • Red, sore, and puffy gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Chronic bad breath
  • A bite that feels different
  • Ill-fitting dentures

How to prevent dental issues associated with diabetes

Controlling your blood glucose level, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in addition to keeping up with a good oral hygiene routine is one of the best ways to prevent dental issues associated with diabetes.

Other preventive measures to keep in mind:

  • Be mindful of your diet and be active each day.
  • Keep up with your regular dental and doctor check-ups.
  • If you wear dentures, be sure to clean them regularly and remove them before going to bed each night. Routinely check your dentures to make sure they are fitting properly.
  • Avoid tobacco use, as diabetics who smoke tobacco are up to 20 times more likely to suffer from periodontal disease and oral thrush.

When to visit a dentist?

Since oral health plays a major role in diabetic control, your dentist is a key player in helping you manage your health. You should visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleaning, typically at least twice a year or more frequently if determined by your dental professionals based on your specific dental needs. Contact your dentist if you are experiencing any red, sore, or bleeding gums, and inform them of any oral issues you may be experiencing. Also, be sure to inform your dentist of the status of your diabetes and keep them in the loop regarding any medical changes.

Our doctors and dental specialists provide a wide range of dental services at our 40+ multi-specialty dental offices across Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Our dental team is compassionate, and our main goal is to provide you a comfortable, caring dental experience. Book an appointment at your local Gentle Dental today.