Oral Health & Diabetes

Oral Health & Diabetes

One in ten Americans suffer from diabetes, a disease that causes high blood sugar.  Blood sugar, or glucose, comes from the foods you eat and is the main source of sugar in your blood.  Insulin is a hormone in your body that helps take the sugar in your blood and turn it into energy.  People who suffer from Type I diabetes don’t have enough insulin, and people who have Type II diabetes stop responding to insulin altogether.  In both types, if left untreated, blood sugar levels get too high and cause problems in many areas of the body.

From problems with your heart to your kidneys, you may be surprised to learn that diabetes can also cause problems in your mouth.  If you have diabetes, the good news is that any oral health problems you may be having can be quickly identified and treated.  Read on to learn about three oral health symptoms of diabetes and three quick and easy tips.

Symptom #1: Dry Mouth

Saliva is extremely important when it comes to your oral health because it acts as the first line of defense against bacteria in your mouth.  Saliva rinses your teeth as you eat and drink throughout the day, taking away some of the germs that are likely to linger after a meal, and it also contains protein molecules that help strengthen your enamel and reduce plaque.  Dry mouth, put simply, is when your mouth is not producing enough of this cavity-fighting saliva, leaving your mouth dry and more susceptible to plaque buildup.  If diabetes is left untreated, dry mouth commonly occurs.  Dry mouth can also be a side effect of certain diabetes medications.

Symptom #2: Higher risk of gingivitis and cavities.

Untreated diabetes causes your blood sugar to rise, and high blood sugar means there will also be higher levels of sugar in your saliva.  Just like too many sugary foods and drinks will cause plaque buildup, so will high levels of sugar in your saliva.  When plaque lingers on teeth and gums, there is a much higher risk of gingivitis (the first stage of gum disease) and cavities.

Symptom #3: Greater risk of infection

High levels of blood sugar can weaken a person’s immune system, making it harder for him or her to fight off infection.  This includes infections in the mouth.  If diabetes isn’t managed, one of the infections that can occur in the mouth is called thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth.  High levels of sugary saliva can increase the risk of this fungus growing in your mouth.  In addition, if you get gingivitis because of the high levels of sugar in your saliva, your body may have a harder time fighting it off.

Now that you know three symptoms of diabetes when it comes to your oral health, here are three quick and easy tips to help manage and even treat these symptoms.

Tip #1: Practice good oral health.

Just because you are at higher risk of oral health problems because of diabetes doesn’t mean all hope is lost.  Practicing consistent and diligent healthy oral health habits will help you produce more cavity-fighting saliva, protect teeth from plaque buildup, and help your mouth fight off infections.  Be sure to brush at least twice a day for two-minutes and floss every day.

Tip #2: Work with your doctor to manage your diabetes.

Working with your doctor to manage your diabetes is one of the best ways to not only improve your overall health, but specifically to improve your oral health.  Your doctor will help you come up with a treatment plan that will keep your blood sugar at healthy levels.  Ensuring that your blood sugar doesn’t get too high will prevent sugary saliva that causes plaque buildup and gingivitis.  Managing your sugar level will greatly improve your oral health, so be sure to work with your doctor and follow his or her treatment plan.

Tip #3: Visit your dentist regularly.

Visiting your dentist twice a year for a checkup and routine dental cleaning is especially important if you have diabetes.  Make sure you communicate with your dentist about your diabetes and he or she will be able to help you know the best ways to care for your mouth.  Seeing a dentist regularly will help you identify any trouble areas before they become bigger problems, as well as help you diagnose infections in your mouth.   

If you have diabetes, you may be more prone to having some oral health issues, but with a little extra care and diligence, your mouth should remain clean and healthy.  We would love to help you with your dental needs at Cornerstone Family Dentistry, so make an appointment with us today!