How Does Diabetes Affect Oral Health?
Maintaining good oral health is crucial for everyone, but it holds even greater significance if you live with diabetes — you’re not alone in this experience. Over 3 million Canadians have been diagnosed with diabetes, with 6.1% having prediabetes. It’s important to understand how diabetes can impact your oral health, from a higher risk of gum disease to contributing to tooth decay and infections. In this article, we’ll explore this connection to oral health, discuss common complications, and provide some essential tips to help you prevent these issues.
How Does Diabetes Affect Oral Health: The Connection
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that comes from the body’s inability to produce or effectively use insulin. Insulin regulates blood sugar, and when there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, it can cause damage to various organs and systems throughout the body, including the mouth.
The oral cavity has a diverse ecosystem of bacteria, and maintaining a delicate balance is crucial for optimal health. However, diabetes can disrupt this equilibrium, leading to various complications. The first step in protecting your oral health is learning about the signs and symptoms of untreated diabetes:
- Delay in wound healing
- Swollen or bleeding gums when brushing and flossing
- Persistent bad breath
- Having less saliva than usual
- Getting infections often
Here are some common oral health complications experienced by those living with diabetes:
Saliva helps maintain oral health by neutralizing acids, cleaning away food particles, and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. However, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to decreased saliva production, resulting in dry
mouth. Without adequate saliva, your mouth becomes more susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections.
While tooth decay can affect anyone, individuals with diabetes are particularly at risk. Tooth decay occurs when the protective layer of tooth enamel demineralizes from acids produced by oral bacteria. These bacteria feed on sugars and carbohydrates present in the mouth, releasing acids as byproducts that erode the enamel.
For people with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels create an environment conducive to bacteria growth and acid production, increasing the risk of cavities. One of the main contributors to tooth decay in these individuals is dry mouth — as discussed earlier, lack of saliva leads to more bacteria.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, begins with the accumulation of dental plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. If not adequately removed through proper oral hygiene practices, plaque can harden into tartar and contribute to the development of gum inflammation.
The elevated blood sugar levels in those with diabetes promote the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive and multiply, increasing the risk of gum disease. Diabetes can impact the progression of periodontal disease in various ways:
- High blood sugar levels can impair the body’s ability to fight off infections
- Diabetes can affect blood vessels and reduce blood circulation. Poor blood flow compromises the gum tissue’s ability to heal and regenerate.
Thrush is a fungal infection that commonly affects the mouth, particularly the tongue and inner cheeks. While this condition can occur in anyone, it is more prevalent and can have a greater impact on those with diabetes. High blood sugar levels ultimately aid in the overgrowth of Candida albicans, a type of yeast normally found in the oral cavity in small amounts.
Common Myths About Oral Health and Diabetes
- Myth 1: Only people with uncontrolled diabetes experience oral health problems.
- The truth is that even individuals with well-controlled diabetes can still be at risk of oral health issues.
- Myth 2: Diabetes-related oral health problems are inevitable and cannot be prevented.
- With proper management of blood sugar and good oral hygiene practices, you can significantly reduce your risks.
- Myth 3: People with dentures don’t need to worry about oral health problems related to diabetes.
- Denture wearers are still at risk of complications like gum disease and oral infections.
How Do I Prevent Oral Health Problems with Diabetes?
- Maintain optimal blood sugar control through regular monitoring and adherence to prescribed medications or insulin regimens.
- Practice good oral hygiene by flossing daily and brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups.
- Seek prompt dental care if you notice any signs of oral health problems.
Remember, the best first step is prevention and early detection of issues. By implementing the above tips, you can protect your smile and overall health. If you have any concerns or need a check-up, visit us at Costello Family Dentistry. We’re here to support you on your oral health journey.