Diabetes and Oral health
Diabetes is a disease that can affect the whole body – including the mouth. People with diabetes face a higher-than-normal risk of oral health problems.
Why is this?
The link between diabetes and oral health problems is high blood sugar. If blood sugar is poorly controlled, oral health problems are more likely to develop. This is because uncontrolled diabetes weakens white blood cells, which are the body’s main defence against bacterial infections that can occur in the mouth.
What oral health problems are associated with diabetes?
Dry mouth – uncontrolled diabetes can decrease saliva flow, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth can further lead to soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay.
Gum disease – another complication of diabetes is that it causes blood vessels to thicken. This slows the flow of nutrients to and waste products from body tissues, including the mouth. This reduces the body’s ability to fight infections. Since periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, people with uncontrolled diabetes might experience more frequent and more severe gum disease.
Thrush – people with diabetes who frequently take antibiotics are especially prone to developing a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue. The fungus thrives on the high glucose levels in the saliva of people with uncontrolled diabetes.
People with diabetes who smoke are at an even higher risk — up to 20 times more likely than non-smokers to develop thrush and periodontal disease. Smoking also seems to impair blood flow to the gums, which might affect wound healing in this tissue area.
How do people with diabetes prevent oral health problems?
- Use a fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth twice a day and use interdental cleaning aids daily.
- If you wear dentures, remove them, and clean them daily.
- Attend for regular routine dental appointment as often as your dentist
- Keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible.
- Ensure your dentist has your doctor’s name and phone number. This will make it easier should your dentist have any queries about your treatment.
- Bring a full list of medication to your dental appointment.
- Postpone non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in good control.
- Keep in mind that healing might take longer. Follow your dentist’s post treatment instructions closely.