People with diabetes can't produce enough of the regulatory hormone insulin, or they can't utilize insulin in the right ways. As a result, they have too much glucose, a simple sugar, in their bloodstream.
Of course, this disease leads to various complications. The connection between diabetes and oral health, however, might not get enough attention. For sure, those who are diabetic must take special care with their teeth and gums.
1. The Symptoms of Gingivitis
Any discussion of diabetes and oral health should include the topic of gum disease. After all, a person with diabetes that isn't under control is almost three times as likely to get gum disease as someone without diabetes. Further, about one out of three diabetic individuals has a severe periodontal disorder.
A mild form of gum disease is an inflammation called gingivitis. The foods that increase the risk of diabetes also increase the risk of gingivitis. Plus, when you have diabetes, it's harder for your body to fight the bacteria that cause gingivitis.
Thus, watch out for gingivitis symptoms like bleeding, swelling and redness of the gums. If you see any of those signs, contact your dentist at once.
2. The Dangers of Periodontitis
If gingivitis isn't properly treated, it can lead to periodontitis, a more serious gum disease.
Periodontitis attacks the bone and tissue beneath the teeth, and it can lead to tooth loss. Patients with diabetes often have worse cases of periodontitis than non-diabetics since their bodies can't heal as quickly.
What's more, periodontitis can cause a person's blood sugar level to go up, which can then inflame other diabetic symptoms. In some cases, such infections can even induce heart attacks. It's a vicious cycle.
3. Dry Mouth and Thrush
Diabetes contributes to two other oral issues: dry mouth and thrush.
A chronic dry mouth can bring about tooth decay and sores. It can make the foods you eat taste like metal. And it's hard to fall asleep with this condition.
What's the link between diabetes and dry mouth? Well, irregular glucose levels seem to adversely affect the functioning of the salivary glands.
For its part, thrush is a yeast infection, and yeast grows best in warm places with high sugar concentrations. Unfortunately, the mouth of a diabetic person represents just such an environment. Not to mention, dry mouth helps yeast grow.
What are the symptoms of oral thrush? Soreness, a bitter taste, bleeding and white lesions are among the signs that it's time to call your doctor to see if you have thrush.
4. Planning Your Visits to the Dentist
Due to the many links between diabetes and oral health, visiting a dentist at least twice a year is vital.
It's a good idea to see your dentist in the morning since diabetic patients are less likely to suffer from hypoglycemia at that time of day. Hypoglycemia is a lack of glucose, and diabetes treatments sometimes trigger it.
For the same reason, it makes sense to avoid dental visits during your peak insulin activity, which generally occurs about two to four hours after an injection.
5. The Good News
Finally, there's some good news. When you keep your glucose in check, brush thoroughly twice or more a day and floss at least once daily, your risk of an oral health problem drops significantly. Thus, you can look forward to healthy gums, strong teeth and a bright smile.