Diabetes and Dental Health

434_3011656__smallerMany are aware of the serious ways in which diabetes can impact an individual’s general health, but fewer know about the strong relationship that exists between diabetes and one’s dental health.

Higher risk of gingivitis

Diabetes reduces your ability to fight bacteria, which causes a plaque build-up on teeth. The longer the plaque remains, the more destructive it becomes, leaving gums swollen and prone to frequent bleeding. This condition is known as gingivitis or early gum disease.

Higher risk of mouth infection

Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more serious infection that destroys the soft tissues and bone that support the teeth. People with diabetes are at higher risk of periodontal disease which can in turn lead to painful gums and eventual tooth loss. An infection such as periodontitis can even cause a person’s blood sugar to rise which can then further compromise a diabetic’s general health and wellbeing.

Burning Mouth Syndrome and Thrush

Burning mouth syndrome is a chronic, painful condition with no visible symptoms… just a burning feeling of the tongue, lips, and other parts of the mouth. The causes are largely unknown but researchers believe that uncontrolled diabetes can be a cause. Diabetics are also more prone to dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush which causes painful white or red patches in the mouth.

Good dental care is crucial

Maintaining good oral hygiene habits and visiting your dental office regularly and frequently is important for everyone, but when you have diabetes, it is crucial. In fact, a study conducted by the American Association for Dental Research revealed that medical costs are lower for people with diabetes who receive treatment for gum disease. Furthermore, their findings showed that hospitalizations decreased by 33 per cent for diabetics who received regular dental care.

Dental tips that will make a difference

Fortunately, there are things diabetics can do to reduce their risks of general health and dental-related problems:

  • Brush and floss regularly and properly; if you are unsure as to whether your dental care regimen or techniques are adequate, ask your dentist or hygienist for a review and demonstration.
  • Visit your dental office regularly for checkups and cleanings. Your dentist or hygienist will tell you what frequency is right for you.
  • Don’t put off dental work that needs doing.
  • If you wear dentures, tell your dentist if you feel they are not fitting right or are causing irritation to your mouth. No one should ever sleep with dentures in, as this can cause thrush.
  • Control your blood glucose.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking and diabetes are a very dangerous combination.
  • Watch for warning signs and if you think you see one, visit your dentist immediately. These signs can include:
    • gums that bleed when you eat, floss or brush
    • mouth sores
    • abnormal changes in your mouth
    • bright red gums
    • gums that appear to be pulling away from your teeth
    • chronic bad breath
    • white or red patches in your mouth
    • a burning sensation in the mouth
    • loose teeth
    • mouth or tooth pain

Steven Deskin is a Dentist in general practice.

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