Posted November 8, 2010
Millions of Americans are affected by diabetes, a disease that can impact the entire body, including the mouth.
Billions of bacteria – about the same number of people living on the Earth! – are alive in your mouth. While most of the bacteria are healthy, it is important to brush and floss teeth daily to keep germs from affecting your teeth and gums.
Diabetics have a higher-than-normal risk of oral health problems if their blood sugar levels are not controlled properly, because high glucose levels in saliva may help bacteria thrive. Diabetes also weakens the ability of white blood cells to fight against the development of bacterial infections in the mouth.
Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of experiencing these oral health concerns:
- Dry mouth – diabetes often decreases saliva flow, leading to tooth decay, mouth soreness, ulcers, and infections
- Gum inflammation (gingivitis and periodontitis) – diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken, slowing the flow of nutrients to body tissues and removal of waste products; this reduces the body’s ability to fight infections, and if diabetes is not controlled, individuals may experience more frequent and severe gum disease
- Reduced healing of oral issues – diabetes impairs blood flow in the body, slowing the healing process after oral surgery and dental procedures
- Thrush – diabetics who frequently use antibiotics to fight infections are prone to developing this fungal infection of the mouth and tongue
Medical researchers have discovered that diabetics who smoke are up to 20 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop thrush and periodontal disease.
Daily Dental Tips to Maintain Oral Health
Diabetics can avoid serious oral health issues if they follow these guidelines:
- Use dental floss at least once daily to prevent plaque buildup on the teeth and gums, which if left untreated, can lead to tooth or bone loss
- Brush teeth after every meal
- Schedule regular appointments for cleanings and checkups, as directed by your dentist
- Avoid smoking
- Remove and clean dentures daily, or according to directions from your dentist
- Contact your dentist immediately if your gums are red, swollen, tender or pull away from your teeth, or if you develop a bad taste in your mouth that doesn’t go away, or if there is a change in how your teeth fit together
Diabetes is a serious health concern that can affect your overall health, including your mouth. To avoid serious oral health problems, diabetics must keep blood sugars under control and practice good oral habits each day.
Do you, or someone you know, have diabetes? If oral health concerns developed, what treatment steps were taken? What advice would you share with others? I’ll gather your comments and share them in a future blog. – Karen Gustin, Ameritas Group