You must be aware that when you have diabetes symptoms, high blood sugar can take a toll on your entire body. Including your oral health, as high glucose levels in your blood affects your teeth and gums. 

Do you know that more than 29 million people living in the US alone have diabetes? This is about 9.3% of the population. Imagine what would be the figure worldwide. 

There are more than 1.7 million new cases diagnosed each year. And today 8.1 million people are living with diabetes who do not even know they have the disease.

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The good news is that – prevention of diabetes is in your hands. People suffering from diabetes have a higher risk of tooth and gum problems. Hence, it becomes essential to look after oral health and control your blood glucose levels to prevent gum disease in the future. 

So what does diabetes have to do with your smile? How can you protect your oral health? First, you need to understand the signs of diabetes and the role it plays in your oral health. In this article also, learn about its effects and then take charge of your dental health.

Diabetes Symptoms and Your Oral Health

People with diabetes with irregular blood glucose levels automatically have a higher risk of tooth problems and gum disease. This is probably because your body has a lowered resistance to any infection and your wound might take time to heal.

If you have diabetes symptoms, you need to pay specific attention to your dental care and oral health. You also have to consciously control your blood glucose levels. Visit your dentist often for advice about how to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

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As you are aware diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. As a natural cycle of your body, the food you consume is turned to sugar and which is then used for energy. 

If you have Type I diabetes, your body produces sufficient insulin. Insulin is the hormone that carries sugar from your blood to the different cells of your body that need energy. 

If you have Type II diabetes, your body stops responding to insulin. Both type I and II diabetes result in high blood sugar levels. The condition can be very harmful to your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, and other parts of your body.

Diabetes is a commonly occurring disease and affects a significant portion of the population. The first symptoms of diabetes will generally occur in your mouth. So if you pay attention to your oral health, you can diagnose and treat the symptoms at an early stage.

Some common oral health problems affecting people with diabetes are as follows:

  • gum disease or periodontal disease 
  • tooth decay
  • gum abscess
  • fungal infections like oral thrush
  • mouth ulcers
  • taste disturbances
  • lichen planus (an inflammatory, autoimmune skin condition)
  • a dry, burning mouth (low saliva levels).

Why People with Diabetes Symptoms Likely to Develop Oral Health Problems?

The link between diabetes and oral health problems is high blood sugar. If you poorly control your blood sugar levels you are more likely to develop oral health problems. 

It is because uncontrolled diabetes will weaken the white blood cells, which are your body’s main defense system against bacterial infections that can start in your mouth.

Studies have shown that by controlling blood sugar levels you can lower your risk of major organ complications related to diabetes. These diabetes complications could affect your eyes, heart, and even nerve damage. So you need to take preventive measures to control your sugar levels. 

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If you have diabetes and also smoke, you are at a higher risk, up to 20 times more likely to develop periodontal disease and oral thrush. Smoking can impair your blood flow to the gums, which might adversely affect wound healing in the gum tissues. Hence, quit smoking for quicker healing.

Diabetes Symptoms and Gum Disease

Gum disease or periodontal disease is commonly caused by an infection that destroys your bone surrounding and supporting your teeth. This bone is responsible for holding your teeth into your jawbone. 

You can also chew your food comfortably with your jaw bone. Bacteria and food debris deposited on your teeth lead to plaque on teeth which finally convert into gum disease.

If left on your teeth and gums, these food particles harden to form plaque also known as calculus or tartar. The plaque will irritate your gums around teeth, so they become red, swollen, and start to bleed. 

As your gum disease keeps progressing, more and more bones are lost in the process. Your teeth become loose and might even fall out by themselves or may need to be removed.

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Gum disease is more severe in people with suboptimal blood glucose levels. Such people tend to have lower resistance to infection and reduced healing capacity.

Hence, if you have diabetes, it is important to look after your oral health. You also need to control your glucose levels to prevent gum disease. It is actually a two-way street. If you address your gum disease it will help improve your blood glucose levels if you are living with diabetes. If you have optimal blood glucose levels you will respond very well to dental treatment.

Symptoms of gum disease

Please visit your dentist immediately if you notice any signs and symptoms of gum disease, including:

  • Swollen, tender, red, bleeding gums.
  • A persistent discharge called pus coming from the gums.
  • A bad breath or bad taste in your mouth.
  • Gums become loose and even start to pull away from your teeth.
  • Loose teeth, the condition can change the ‘feel’ of your bite. 
  • Spaces in between your teeth start to open up.

Diabetes Symptoms and Tooth Decay

Are you among those living with diabetes? With increased blood glucose levels you tend to have more glucose in your saliva. Moreover, you might also have a dry mouth. Both these conditions are ideal for plaque to build up leading to tooth decay and tooth cavity in the future.

You can easily get rid of dental plaque by cleaning your teeth and gums thoroughly. Try brushing twice daily using a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. You can also use dental floss or interdental cleaners to clean between your teeth. 

If you take good care of your teeth and gums even if you have diabetes, you can prevent cavities and gum disease.

Diabetes Symptoms and Oral Fungal Infections

Oral thrush, or candidiasis, is a fungal infection. The infection occurs when there is an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans. This oral infection occurs naturally in your mouth. 

Some conditions caused by diabetes can contribute to the formation of oral thrush. These conditions include poor resistance to infection, dry mouth leading to low saliva levels, and high glucose in saliva.

 

Oral thrush might cause white or red patches on your skin inside your mouth leading to discomfort and ulcers. Both good oral hygiene and controlled blood glucose levels are critical to successfully treating the oral infection or thrush. Your dentist might treat this condition by prescribing antifungal medications.

Other Oral Health Problems Associated with Diabetes

People with diabetes also face a higher risk of:

1 Gum Inflammation or Gingivitis: Diabetes can weaken your white blood cells. In addition, diabetes can also cause your blood vessels to thicken. This thick blood automatically slows down the flow of nutrients to and waste products from your body tissues, including your mouth. 

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When such complications, your body slowly loses its ability to fight infections. Since periodontal and gingivitis disease are bacterial infections, if you have uncontrolled diabetes, you might experience more frequent and severe gum disease.

2 Dry mouth: Uncontrolled diabetes can decrease your saliva flow in your mouth, causing harmful conditions like dry mouth. A dry mouth could further lead to soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay.

3 Thrush: People with diabetes who frequently take antibiotics to fight infections are prone to developing a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue. The oral fungus easily thrives on the high glucose levels in the saliva of such people. In addition, if you wear dentures constantly it could also lead to fungal infections.

4 Poor healing of oral tissues: If you do not have optimized glucose levels you will not heal fast, especially after an oral surgery or other dental procedures.  This is because the blood flow to the treatment site might have been damaged.

5 Burning mouth and tongue: You will experience this condition if you have oral thrush. Commonly known as burning mouth syndrome you might experience a burning pain in your mouth that generally does not have a known cause. If you have this condition, the roof of the mouth and tongue will feel like they are burning all the time.

How to Prevent Oral Health Problems if You Have Diabetes Symptoms? 

As discussed, people with diabetes are more prone to conditions that might harm their oral health. Hence it is important to follow good oral hygiene practices. You should pay close special attention to any changes in your teeth or gums. You should also discuss with your dentist if you notice any such changes. 

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Listed below are a few suggestions to reduce or prevent oral health problems:

  • Keep your blood sugar level under control and as close to normal as possible. Discuss the status of your diabetes every time you visit your dentist.
  • Book an appointment with your doctor before you schedule treatment for periodontal disease. Also ask your doctor to discuss with your dentist about your overall health condition, especially if oral surgery or procedure is planned. 
  • Your dentist should know the list of all the medicines you are taking. Your dentist needs this info to prescribe medicines in line with what you are taking. For instance, if a major infection is being treated, your dentist needs to adjust the insulin dose.
  • If your blood sugar is not in good control try to postpone non-emergency dental procedures.  However, acute infections like abscess should be treated immediately.

You have to keep in mind that if you are suffering from diabetes, healing might take longer than usual. Follow your dentist’s post-treatment instructions to avoid any complications. Also, pay extra attention to your oral hygiene tips. 

As you know – managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment, so take proper care of your dental health. Remember, your efforts will be rewarded with a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.