Diabetes is a medical condition that impacts the body’s ability to produce or process insulin, the hormone responsible for controlling the amount of sugar in your blood. Type I and Type II diabetes causes people to develop high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can harm multiple organs in the body, including the eyes, nerves, kidneys and heart.
Diabetes is also linked to an increased risk of oral health conditions, especially severe gum disease (periodontitis). Scientific research confirms that diabetes is a significant risk factor for periodontitis, and that people with diabetes are 3 times more susceptible to gum disease than people without diabetes.
Uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of developing oral problems. Let’s take a look at how diabetes affects your oral health.
4 Common Mouth Problems Linked to Diabetes
- Dry mouth. People with diabetes are more likely to have less saliva production and dry mouth. Saliva has several essential functions in your mouth: it cleans away plaque and food particles, prevents bacterial growth and neutralizes acids in your mouth. With less saliva production, you’re at a higher risk of developing cavities, gum disease and bad breath.
- Gum disease. Gum disease is the most common oral health condition that affects people with diabetes. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing severe gum disease, which is a leading cause of tooth and bone loss in adults. Unfortunately, diabetes and gum disease are linked by a vicious cycle: if you have diabetes, you’re more likely to develop gum disease. Once you develop gum disease, it raises your blood sugar level and makes it more difficult for you to control your diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can speed up the progression of gum disease and cause significant oral health problems.
- Oral infections. Diabetes weakens the body’s immune system, which leaves your body more vulnerable to developing infections and less able to fight off infectious agents. People with diabetes are more likely to get oral thrush, a yeast infection that causes white, patchy lesions to appear in the mouth.
- Slow wound healing. Diabetes impacts the body’s ability to respond to and heal wounds and infections quickly. Delayed wound healing is one reason why gum disease is so pervasive in people with diabetes. Because the body can’t fight the infection, the disease continues to worsen and cause progressive damage.
Oral Care Tips for People With Diabetes
It’s entirely possible for people with diabetes to maintain good oral health and avoid the problems listed above. If you have diabetes, you must remain vigilant about practicing good oral care and protecting your health. Follow the tips listed below:
- Manage your diabetes. If your diabetes is under control, you’re less likely to develop oral problems. Follow your doctor-prescribed treatment plan for managing your condition. Monitor your blood sugar level, take your medications and eat a healthy, diabetes-friendly diet.
- Practice good oral hygiene at home. Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes at a time using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. If you can, brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out with water after eating lunch and munching on snacks. Floss and use a fluoridated mouthwash once a day.
- Quit smoking (or don’t start). People with diabetes who smoke may have more difficulty controlling their diabetes. Additionally, smoking further weakens your immune system, increases your risk of infections and causes delayed wound healing.
- See your dentist regularly. Visit your dentist at least twice a year (and maybe more) for routine check-ups and professional cleanings. Deep cleanings can help prevent the buildup of plaque and bacteria that leads to tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, regular oral examinations can help detect and treat oral health problems before they worsen.
Boyett Family Dentistry is a trusted family practice in Winter Haven, FL. We see patients of all ages. To make an appointment, call us at 863-294-9200 or leave us a message online.