The numbers are alarming. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “34.2 million people have diabetes (10.5% of the US population)” and “88 million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (34.5% of the adult US population).” Unfortunately, people with diabetes are more at risk for dental health issues, so a large number of those millions of people suffering from diabetes are also suffering from tooth and gum issues.
Since November is American Diabetes Month, we want to share some key facts about the connection between diabetes and dental health. Whether you have diabetes, are pre-diabetic, or have a family member who suffers from diabetes, we hope this information will help you prioritize dental health.
Diabetics are More at Risk for Dental Health Issues
The main connection between diabetes and dental health issues is high blood sugar. The American Dental Association explains, “People with diabetes are at a higher risk for gum problems because of poor blood sugar control. As with all infections, serious gum disease may cause blood sugar to rise. This makes diabetes harder to control because you are more susceptible to infections and are less able to fight the bacteria invading the gums.” It’s a bit of a vicious circle. It is harder to heal from gum disease if you’re a diabetic; having gum disease makes it harder to control your blood sugar.
Increased Risk of Gingivitis
Gingivitis is an early gum disease. Diabetics have a harder time fighting bacteria in the mouth. When plaque and tartar stay on your teeth for a long period, it irritates the top part of your gums, which is called the gingiva. When you have gingivitis, your gums swell and bleed easily. You can treat gingivitis with daily brushing and flossing and regular Houston dental appointments.
Increased Risk of Periodontitis
According to the American Dental Association, “Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting nearly 22% of those diagnosed.” Periodontitis is an advanced gum disease. When gingivitis is left untreated, periodontitis occurs. With periodontitis, the gum surrounding the teeth is destroyed, which can eventually cause your teeth to fall out. In fact, 1 in 5 cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes. Periodontitis must be treated by your Houston dentist. Sometimes it requires medication, and sometimes it requires gum surgery.
Increased Risk of Thrush
Diabetics are also more at risk for thrush, also called candidiasis. Thrush is a fungal infection that has painful red or white patches in the mouth. The patches can turn to open sores. Colgate explains, “It’s important to note that medications to reverse gum disease often increase your chances of developing thrush, a type of yeast infection in the mouth. If your blood sugar levels are high, you are even more likely to develop thrush, as the yeast thrives when there are high levels of sugar in the saliva and mouth.”
Increased Risk of Dry Mouth
Diabetics may also suffer from dry mouth, also called xerostomia. Some diabetics have decreased saliva, which causes dry mouth. Dry mouth can be painful and can lead to cracked lips. Additionally, dry mouth can cause mouth sores and infections. Unfortunately, many medications, including those prescribed for diabetics, can cause dry mouth.
Increased Risk of Cavities
Diabetics also have an increased risk of cavities. The CDC explains, “If the sugar level is high in your blood, it’s high in your saliva too, which is a problem because sugar serves as a kind of fertilizer for all the bacteria in the mouth. Combined with food, bacteria creates plaque, a sticky film that can cause tooth decay.” Cavities are also caused by a lack of saliva (dry mouth), which we discussed above.
Increased Susceptibility for Infections
According to Very Well Health, “People with diabetes are more susceptible to developing infections, as high blood sugar levels can weaken the patient’s immune system defenses.” In particular, they are more susceptible to infections in the mouth, such as thrush as we previously discussed.
Delayed Wound Healing
Diabetics have to be extra careful when having dental work done and need to be upfront with their Houston dentists about their blood sugar levels and medications. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “People with uncontrolled diabetes do not heal quickly after oral surgery or other dental procedures because blood flow to the treatment site can be damaged.” Your Houston dental team will communicate with your doctor if there is cause for concern and you may have to reschedule a procedure until a later date.
How to Avoid Diabetic Dental Health Issues
The best way to avoid diabetic dental health issues is to control your blood sugar levels and maintain good oral health. Brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes each time. Floss daily. See your Houston dentist regularly. Studies have shown that “practicing good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c.”
Diabetes Dental Health Action Plan
If you have diabetes, you should work closely with your doctor and dentist to manage it. Doing the following can help you avoid the diabetic dental health issues we discussed above.
- Manage your diabetes. Control your blood sugar levels. Follow your doctor’s orders.
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Floss once a day.
- Visit your Houston dentist regularly.
- Be on the lookout for potential gum diseases, such as bleeding or swelling, and report any issues to your dentist.
- Stop smoking right away. Smoking worsens diabetes and increases your chance of gum disease.
According to the American Dental Association, “Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease.” Since the connection between diabetes and oral health is evident, make a point to practice good oral care, and see your dentist.
Regular Dental Visits Help Those with Diabetes! Schedule an Appointment with Greenspoint Dental in Houston Today!