Diabetes can lead to a whole host of health problems, but did you know that it can also put you at risk for dental issues? The implications of high blood sugar extend to every part of the body — including teeth and gums. When it comes to diabetes, teeth and gum problems are something you need to be aware of.
Diabetes: Teeth and Gum Problems to Look Out For
Here are few of the ways diabetes can wreak havoc on your mouth, and how you can prevent this damage from occurring if you are one of the 21.9 million people in the U.S. who suffer from diabetes.
Diabetes can reduce the blood supply to the gums, which increases the risk for gum disease. This risk is amplified if you had poor dental health prior to being diagnosed with diabetes.
Gum disease takes two forms: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is less serious, but can develop into periodontitis if left untreated. In addition to cutting off blood to the gums, diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, putting the gums at risk for gingivitis, an inflammation caused by the bacteria in the form of plaque. The longer plaque remains on your teeth, the more it irritates the gingiva — the part of your gums around the base of your teeth.
The main symptoms of gingivitis are red, swollen, and bleeding gums. It is important to contact your dentist as soon as these symptoms develop so the problem can be addressed.
Untreated gingivitis can lead to a more serious infection called periodontitis, which affects the tissue and bones that support your teeth. In addition to red bleeding gums, other symptoms include bad breath that won’t go away and changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
Eventually, periodontitis causes your gums and jawbone to pull away from your teeth. This in turn causes your teeth to loosen and potentially fall out.
To further complicate matters, periodontitis and diabetes can lead to a catch-22 situation. Diabetes slows your body’s ability to heal and fight bacteria, so the infection takes longer to go away. Additionally, periodontitis raises blood sugar, which makes diabetes more difficult to manage.
If you have diabetes, or know someone who does, you know that one of its chief symptoms is dry mouth and a constant feeling of thirst. This is an annoyance for sure, but can also lead to more serious dental issues.
Diabetes reduces your mouth’s saliva production, which makes your teeth more vulnerable to decay and can also contribute to gum disease. Saliva helps wash away plaque and tartar from teeth; the less saliva in your mouth, the more likely plaque and tartar are to stick around.
Symptoms accompanying dry mouth include a dry tongue and dry, cracked lips. It can also lead to difficulty chewing, swallowing, or talking.
Your dentist can prescribe a fluoride rinse to keep your mouth moisturized and prevent tooth decay. Sugar free gum and mints are also good for stimulating saliva flow and keeping the mouth moist.
Dry mouth associated with diabetes is worsened by caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, as well as spicy and salty foods. Avoiding these foods will help prevent the problem from becoming worse.
Oral Care for Diabetes Patients
The risks for diabetes make good dental hygiene non-negotiable. Dental care and diabetes care must be practiced in tandem to effectively combat issues like gum disease and dry mouth.
Start the process by following these tips:
1. Brush your teeth at least twice per day and floss once per day. This will help keep plaque buildup at bay and remove food particles that can lead to tooth decay. Consider an electric toothbrush for the best brushing results.
2. Manage your diet. Avoiding foods that are high in sugar will help control your diabetes and your oral health.
3. Tell your dentist about diabetes. This will ensure that you receive the best care possible for your specific needs.
4. Schedule regular dental visits. Consider going beyond the minimum recommended two visits per year so your dentist can monitor progress and watch for new developments in your mouth related to diabetes.
1st Family Dental offers specialized treatments for gum disease and other issues related to diabetes. Contact us today to learn more about how to get on the road to good dental health while managing your diabetes.