December 13, 2023

Diabetes and Dental Health: How to Protect Your Smile and Prevent Complications

Diabetes and Dental Health: How to Protect Your Smile and Prevent Complications Diabetes management can undoubtedly be stressful, but it’s best to face each day with a smile—though you’ll want to take a few steps to protect your smile first….

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Home / Living with Diabetes / Diabetes and Dental Health: How to Protect Your Smile and Prevent Complications

Diabetes and Dental Health: How to Protect Your Smile and Prevent Complications

Diabetes management can undoubtedly be stressful, but it’s best to face each day with a smile—though you’ll want to take a few steps to protect your smile first. In addition to diabetes complications such as heart problems and nerve damage, studies suggest a link between dental issues such as gum disease and diabetes.

 

If you have diabetes, you could be at risk of everything from periodontal disease to fungal infections. Fortunately, doing some research will give you a chance to learn all about the oral health complications diabetes can cause (and how to reduce your odds of encountering these problems).

The Link Between Diabetes and Dental Health

It’s common for people with diabetes to have above-average blood sugar levels. But if you have a high amount of glucose in your blood, the same is true for the glucose in your saliva. That, of course, can lead to various oral health problems.

The bacteria occurring in plaque (a sticky film that can form inside mouths) use sugar as a food source. These organisms can cause conditions like gum disease—and if you have diabetes, they’ll get more sugar to feed on than usual. While that isn’t the only connection between diabetes and dental health complications, it is one of the biggest reasons why people living with this disease need to make oral health a priority.

Oral Health Problems in Diabetes

Have you developed symptoms such as sore or bleeding gums, oral infections, or persistent bad breath? If so, give your dentist a call: you may be suffering from a dental health-related complication of diabetes. Some oral health conditions commonly seen in diabetes patients include:

Gingivitis

The single most common oral health issue seen in people with diabetes is periodontal disease (AKA gum disease). If you have gingivitis, an early stage of this disease, your gums could turn red, feel sore, and start bleeding.

Periodontitis

Gingivitis is bad enough on its own, but it can get much worse if you neglect it for long enough. When that happens, this condition can turn into a more severe disease called “periodontitis.” Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis can actively erode the tissues and bones supporting your teeth. In extreme cases, you could lose your teeth altogether.

Tooth Sensitivity

Technically speaking, diabetes isn’t a direct cause of sensitive teeth. But this disease can definitely contribute to gum disease—and tooth sensitivity is a common symptom of that condition. Because of that, it’s common for people with diabetes to experience tooth pain.

Dry Mouth

Diabetes can actively impede your ability to produce saliva, which could lead to xerostomia (a condition more commonly referred to as “dry mouth”). When you have a dry mouth, you could eventually develop ulcers, sores, gum disease, and tooth decay.

Infections

Bacteria love to eat sugar, and so do other organisms—like fungi, for example. Since people with diabetes typically have higher-than-usual levels of sugar in their saliva, they often find themselves dealing with fungal yeast infections such as thrush. This type of infection causes red and white patches on a person’s tongue and the insides of their cheeks, which might eventually become open sores.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Dry mouth and thrush can both result in burning mouth syndrome, as can some medications (including those used for high blood pressure). As you might expect, this condition feels like drinking a scalding beverage. While it can also cause sensations like numbness, tingling, or a loss of taste, burning mouth syndrome isn’t dangerous in and of itself.

Slow Healing

Some people with diabetes heal more slowly than members of the general population. Because of that, issues with your teeth and gums might not go away as quickly as they usually would; it may also take a long time for you to recover from dental surgery. The slow healing associated with diabetes can also increase your infection risk.

Tips for Dental Care and More

The thought of developing dental health complications like those listed above can be alarming, but as is the case for most diabetes complications, they aren’t inevitable. To lower your risk of needing treatment for tooth sensitivity, gum disease, and other oral diabetes complications, make an effort to:

Manage Your Blood Sugar

Like many other diabetes complications, oral health problems are often linked to your blood glucose level. Thus, keeping your blood sugar under control is a great way to lower your complication risk. As part of this process, work with your healthcare team to create a nutritious diabetes diet and an exercise plan that fits your needs.

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Take Care of Your Teeth

Basic oral hygiene can also go a long way towards keeping your smile safe. Brush/floss your teeth twice or more per day, use an antiseptic mouthwash, and clean your dentures every day (if you wear them).

Limit Your Sugar Intake

Sugar contributes to the formation of acids that eat away at tooth enamel and attracts bacteria that can cause periodontal disease. But if you have diabetes, there’s another reason you should control your intake of simple carbohydrates: they can easily lead to a blood glucose spike.

Prioritize Dental Care

Since diabetes and dental health issues are so closely connected, it’s in your best interest to visit a professional in this field on a regular basis. Schedule a dental check-up at least once every six months, and update your dentist on how your diabetes management efforts are going while you’re there. (For more serious dental health issues like periodontitis, you may need to see a specialist for treatment.)

Quit Smoking

Smoking can increase your risk of gum problems, tooth loss, and other oral health problems—in addition to the other health risks it presents for people with diabetes. If you smoke, the best time to quit is now.

How US MED Can Simplify Diabetes Management

Given the sheer amount of time and effort diabetes patients spend managing this disease, oral health might not seem like a particularly high priority in your life. However, conditions like gum disease, dry mouth, and infections can seriously affect your well-being. By taking a few simple steps in the present, you can significantly lower your risk of dealing with these complications in the future.

If you’d like to learn more about diabetes complications (and everything else you need to know about diabetes), US MED’s blog has you covered. That’s not the only way we make it easier for people to live with this disease, either—we’re also America’s top supplier of essential diabetes products like continuous glucose monitoring systems, insulin pumps, and diabetes testing supplies. Order the diabetes supplies you need today!

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