Post Date:
November 30, 2020
How Diabetes Affects Oral Health

Scientific evidence has shown that there is a link between diabetes and an increase chance of oral health problems. Although it is a disease that affects your entire body-- from your liver, to your muscles, to your heart-- it also can have effect on the well-being of your teeth and gums.

The crux of the problem is poor blood sugar management-- when this is not effectively  managed, it can result in weakened white blood cells-- which are the main line of defense against bacteria. If your body cannot properly maintain white blood cell count, it can lead to infections-- and that includes in the mouth and gums as well.

In this article, we’re going to examine:

  • Why are diabetics are more prone to oral health issues?
  • What are some diabetic-induced problems?
  • Tips for diabetics to ensure good oral health

teeth and toothbrush brushing
Diabetics are more prone to certain oral health issues, but this is due to poor blood sugar management. and not just because they are diabetic.

Diabetes and Oral Health Problems

What’s the link?

As we mentioned above, the link between diabetes and oral health problems comes from blood sugar management. If your diabetes is not managed properly or consistently, it can lead to an improper function of white blood cells. When these are cells are unable to fight off bacteria, infections are very common. Diabetes itself does not cause the problems of infection or tooth decay-- it is incorrect management of blood sugar that does. Too high blood sugar can lead to a whole set of problems in diabetics, including:

  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat

High blood sugar also weakens white blood cells which help your body fight bacterial infections-- and is true for the body as a whole. But it also affects how you can fight any infection in your mouth and gums. Having low blood sugar is also a problem for diabetics as well, and can have an affect on how your body fights infection as well.

Proper blood sugar management is usually done with a blood glucose monitoring kit requiring a drop of blood to be place on a testing strip. It is crucial for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar level, that way they can compensate if their sugar is too low or too high. Learning to correctly manage this is the first step towards having better oral hygiene-- and a better defense against future infections.

highlighter and a checklist
There is a whole list of oral health problems associated with poor blood sugar management in diabetics. Make sure you’re managing your blood glucose and avoid this problems!

Oral Health Problems Due to Diabetes

There is a common misconception that diabetics are more prone to cavities or losing teeth-- but this is simply not the case. People with well-controlled blood sugar are no more likely to develop a cavity or have a tooth decay than people without diabetes. It comes down to proper glucose management-- and due to poor blood sugar management, people with diabetes are much more prone to:

1. Dry mouth

Saliva is crucial to the well being of your mouth and gums. It acts as an agent that removes and flushes out harmful bacteria from your mouth. If your body’s ability to fight infection is already low, having a dry mouth will only make matters worse. Consistent dry mouth can lead to soreness, infections, and tooth decay-- not to mention create a breeding ground for bacteria.

If you are on medications where a side effect is dry mouth, it is very important that you work to keep your blood sugar in check-- any deviation will only increase your chances of sustaining an infection in your mouth. Saliva is also protective of tooth enamel, and without it, you are much more prone to a cavity.

2. Gingivitis and periodontal disease

Diabetics who mismanage their blood glucose are more prone to bleeding gums (gingivitis), which can be a painful and uncomfortable experience. Diabetes can also cause blood vessels to thicken-- and this includes in the mouth as well. It slows nutrients and makes it more difficult for the body to get rid of waste-- increasing the risk of an infection. Gum disease can manifest quicker and more severely in diabetics as well.

3. Poor healing of tissue

Diabetics tend to heal more slowly after any oral surgery or dental engagements-- this is due to the fact that the blood flow is altered and not operating in an efficient way. Even a trip for a cleaning can be painful or result in poor healing if the gums were bothered by the dental hygienist's tools.

Dentists should take care when doing any procedures on a diabetic who may have poorly managed blood sugar. Poor healing of the tissue is one of the reasons for this. Implanting a crown or a filling should be held off until the person can get their diabetes back under control.

4. Thrush

People with diabetes may be on antibiotics to deal with bacterial infections. This also makes them more prone to fungal infections in the mouth and on the tongue. Dentures are another way for a fungus to gain a foothold in your mouth. If you are constantly wearing them-- or not cleaning them properly-- it can introduce this type of infection to the mouth and gums.

toothbrush and toothpaste
By getting your blood glucose levels under better management, it will be easier for you to keep up with a better oral health regime as well.

Tips for Diabetics for Better Oral Health

Diabetics should talk with their doctor and learn to manage their diabetes-- it can help them live a much better life. Because this disease affects so much more than just oral health, proper management is key. Here are some tips for diabetics for better oral health management:

  • Keep your blood sugar under control. If you need to speak to your doctor to find a better way to manage this, it’s imperative that you do so. You can put together a better monitoring system to help with blood glucose checks and insulin management. It might even be helpful to use an app with reminders. Also, let your dentist know the status of your blood sugar control-- that way they can make the best decisions possible regarding any oral treatment you might require now or in the future.

  • Talk to your doctor before periodontal treatment. If you have any oral surgery coming up it might be a good idea to make sure your doctor and dentist are in communication. Your doctor might wish to prescribe some preventative antibiotics before your surgery or other dental procedures, which can help limit an infection. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and if you can avoid a possible oral infection, it will have paid to have done the extra effort.

  • Bring a list of medicines and their dosage to your dentist. When your doctor is aware of all your medications-- including insulin amounts-- they can better prescribe dosages that are less likely to interfere with your medicine.

  • Keep up with dentist visits. It’s important for everyone to visit their dentist twice per year to get a check up and a cleaning, but it’s crucial for diabetics. Here you can speak with your dentist about any issues or concerns, and let them know how your blood sugar management plan is going.

  • Maintain a good brushing plan. Make sure you are diligent about brushing after each meal and flossing in the evenings. This is a good way to remove plaque and food debris. It might also be a good idea to keep a Brushee in your bag or purse so that you can always clean your teeth after meals. It’s a compact way to always have access to a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss-- and goes anywhere you do!

  • Quit smoking. Diabetics who smoke greatly increase their risk of developing thrush and periodontal disease. It also affects the the way that blood flows to the gums, which can impair healing even more after a dental procedure. Talk to your doctor about ways to quitting this habit for good.

If you have diabetes, it is imperative that you maintain a good routine of proper oral hygiene. You body needs all the help it can get against infection-- even in your mouth. If you don’t have diabetes, is still important to take care of your teeth and gums so that they can stay healthy and last you a lifetime!

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