Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body uses blood sugar. When the blood sugar is high, the high levels of glucose in the blood can damage nerves, blood vessels, organs, and gums.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, causing the body to be unable to create enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Patients with type 1 diabetes require regular injections of synthetic insulin to control their blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in the United States, affecting about 9 million people over the age of 20. Unlike type 1 diabetes, patients with type 2 diabetes produce insulin, but their bodies are unable to use it effectively. The condition is usually associated with being overweight or leading an unhealthy lifestyle. However, it is not always preventable and can affect patients of all ages and backgrounds.
Both forms of diabetes can lead to oral health complications such as gum infections, dry mouth, or thrush. Patients who have uncontrolled sugar levels in their bloodstream can suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis, a severe complication that can weaken the body’s ability to fight off infection. Further, the effects of high blood sugar can cause nerve damage to the tissues in the mouth, including the gums and tongue. This can result in painful symptoms like ulcers or wounds that won’t heal properly.
The oral complications of diabetes include gum disease, dry mouth, thrush, and more. When untreated, these can worsen to the point where they cause damage to the soft tissue and bone structures of the mouth. This can result in tooth loss and infections of the inner portion of the head or the neck. Poor dental health can also make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels. Studies have also linked poor oral health to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other medical conditions. However, maintaining good oral hygiene helps to prevent most oral complications related to diabetes. Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between diabetes and your oral health.
Diabetics are more susceptible to gum disease than non-diabetics, so dentists encourage them to practice good oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing at least twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride, flossing once a day, rinsing with a mouthwash that contains alcohol-free fluoride, and eating a healthy diet low in refined carbohydrates and sugars. If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before putting them back in the next morning. Also, see a dentist if you experience bleeding when you brush or floss your teeth.
People with diabetes often have a decreased flow of saliva. Without enough of it, your mouth struggles to remove food particles from your teeth, and it’s more difficult to neutralize acids produced by plaque bacteria. This can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Drinking plenty of fluids can help stimulate the flow of saliva, but you should also be aware of which foods and beverages are acidic and avoid them when possible.
If you have diabetes and notice any symptoms of dry mouth, you should be sure to drink plenty of fluids and chew sugar-free gum or hard candy to stimulate saliva production. You should also avoid sugary foods and drinks that can contribute to cavities. You may want to rinse your mouth with water after you eat to remove food particles from your teeth.
Food particles can cause tooth decay even if you practice excellent oral hygiene. They can also increase the risk of gum disease by contributing to plaque buildup on your teeth. You should brush your teeth as soon as you can after eating in order to remove food particles from your teeth. This is even more important if you snack throughout the day; snacks often stick to your teeth longer than a full meal does. If you find it difficult to brush every after a meal, you may want to try rinsing your mouth with water to remove any debris. You can also consider chewing sugarless gum for about ten minutes to help stimulate your salivary glands and prevent dry mouth symptoms. When you do brush your teeth, be sure you are using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. Flossing is also important for removing plaque between teeth and below your gum line, where brushing alone can’t reach. When you floss, make sure to go gently and use a new section of floss for each tooth to avoid injuring your gums.
Seeing your dentist for regular professional cleanings and exams is an important part of maintaining your oral health. Professional cleanings are the only way to remove the plaque that you cannot remove on your own at home.
For more information, visit Allen Creek Family Dentistry at 6618 64th St. NE, Suite C, Marysville, WA 98270, or call (360) 651-2900.