Diabetes is known to affect the kidneys, heart, and eyes. But did you know diabetes also puts your oral health at risk? While proper blood glucose levels will help control and avoid problems, it’s important to understand the oral health risks that diabetes causes and ways to prevent issues.
Oral Health Risks from Diabetes
People who have diabetes are at an increased risk for several dental problems. Because of high blood sugar, or blood sugar that is poorly controlled, people with diabetes experience weakened white blood cells. These white blood cells are the body’s defense against bacterial infection.
Gum inflammation or periodontal disease
Weakened white blood cells coupled with thickened blood vessels slow nutrients to tissues in the mouth. They also restrict the removal of waste products from mouth tissues. Periodontitis is a bacterial infection, also known as gum disease, and can form in the gum and bone that hold teeth in place.
Diabetes that is poorly controlled decreases the flow of saliva, which results in dry mouth. Not only does lack of saliva accelerate gum disease and decay, but it can also lead to mouth ulcers and soreness.
People with uncontrolled diabetes may need antibiotics to fight various infections. Unfortunately, this can leave the mouth and tongue more susceptible to developing fungal infections. The fungus also thrives on high glucose levels found in saliva. Thrush is sometimes a sign of undiagnosed diabetes.
It’s often a challenge for diabetes patients to heal quickly and adequately after surgery. In the case of oral surgery, patients can experience damage at the treatment site caused by restricted blood flow if diabetes is not properly controlled.
Ways to Ensure Oral Health When Living with Diabetes
Managing diabetes by keeping blood glucose levels under control is the best way to prevent problems for diabetics. There are additional ways in which people with diabetes can avoid oral health issues.
Daily oral hygiene
Diabetics need to create regular oral hygiene habits. To prevent plaque buildup and avoid infection, teeth should be brushed twice each day and about 30 minutes after every meal. Getting into the habit of gently brushing the tongue is also a good idea. Diabetics should also floss at least once every day.
If dry mouth is present, try mouthwash that doesn’t have alcohol. Ask your dentist about adding a daily rinse of antiseptic mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine.
In addition to daily brushing and flossing of teeth, dentures should be removed and cleaned every day. Also, don’t sleep with dentures in the mouth. Ensuring no buildup of fungus or bacteria is essential to keep infection away.
Regular dental visits
Patients with diabetes should adhere to regular teeth cleanings and having their teeth and gums cleaned and check by the dentist at least two times each year.
People with diabetes should be motivated to stop smoking to avoid other health issues and the aggravation of the mouth that smoking can cause. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit!
As a diabetic, it’s important that all medical providers have contact information for each other. Make sure the dentist has the name and contact information of your doctor, and vice versa. If you’re scheduled for a dental treatment or deep cleaning for periodontal issues, see your doctor ahead of time to determine if pre-dental visit antibiotics are appropriate.