The Connection Between Diabetes & Oral Health

Diabetes & Oral Health

In this guide from Empire Dental, we explain how gum disease and other oral health concerns can potentially affect the 1 in 10 Americans that live with diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. Your body breaks down the food you eat into sugar and releases it into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, your pancreas is signaled to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin allows the sugar in your blood to enter your body’s cells for use as energy. When a person’s body does not make or utilize insulin correctly and their blood sugar is too high, they have diabetes. Diabetes can have a serious effect on other areas of someone’s health, such as the heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes. This medical condition can also make someone more vulnerable when it comes to oral health.

How Can Diabetes Impact Someone’s Oral Health?

  • Diabetes can reduce the effectiveness of your body’s natural healing response. This applies to the rest of your body, and can also slow the recovery process for a dental injury or surgery.

  • Diabetes can increase someone’s risk of xerostomia and thrush. Xerostomia, colloquially known as “dry mouth,” is a common side effect of diabetes. This is a condition in which your mouth does not produce adequate saliva. Without the antimicrobial functions of saliva, you are more at risk of tooth decay, ulcers or infections of the mouth, and thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection that can be exacerbated by higher sugar levels. Thrush typically is not harmful, feels like a sore throat, and can be treated with antifungal medication, but if left untreated, can lead to serious complications.

  • The medical condition can be a major risk factor for gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is cited as both the most common and most serious mouth-related problem pertaining to diabetes.

What Causes Gum Disease In People With Diabetes?

Diabetes puts people at greater risk of gum disease because the medical condition causes changes to the blood vessels. Thickened blood vessels can mean reduced blood flow, which interrupts the body’s natural process of delivering nutrients and removing waste. Reduced blood flow can also result in weakened gum and bone tissues, which puts both at a greater risk of infection.

What Are Signs Of Gum Disease To Look Out For?

1. Bleeding of gums.

2. Dry mouth, which can be a precursor to gingivitis.

3. White patches on the gums, cheeks, and tongue.

4. A bad taste in your mouth that can be described as bitter, sour, or metallic.

5. Chronic bad breath.

How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?

For those with diabetes, good blood sugar levels are key to controlling and preventing many of the other health issues associated with the medical condition. If you have diabetes and want to prevent gum disease, be sure to:

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels daily.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss before bed.

  • Quit smoking or chewing tobacco. Tobacco use is linked to a number of other serious health concerns. Smoking cigarettes can also cause dry mouth, which increases the risk of both cavities and gum disease.

  • Visit your dentist twice a year (or once every 6 months) for regular check-ups and professional cleanings.

  • Talk to your dental healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

  • Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you have any symptoms of gum disease.

If you are seeking dental care in Kamloops, consider Empire Dental. Empire Dental is proud to serve Kamloops and the surrounding neighborhoods in British Columbia. Call 250-374-7227 to ask about your options for dental hygiene and care, or schedule a visit today.

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