Diabetics are aware that the disease affects their kidneys, feet and eyes. They are cognizant of the effect of high blood sugar on every aspect of their bodies. Knowing that the body’s systems interact with each other via hormones, the diabetic can mitigate these effects by managing their glucose. Insulin is, after all, a hormone that regulates the body’s glucose. However, did you know that diabetes can affect the mouth, too? Badly controlled glucose can cause general oral health issues such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. Bone loss due to diabetes can and will cause the teeth to fall out. What’s a diabetic to do?
According to the Centers for Disease Control or CDC, diabetes represses the immune system along with the body’s repair shop, so to speak. Insulin sensitivity, they say, places diabetics at risk of kidney disease and heart disease. Since the body’s systems are adversely affected by diabetes, periodontal disease swoops in there and does its dastardly duty. Some other oral health problems affected by diabetes include:
- Dry mouth
- Tooth loss
- Burning mouth syndrome
The National Institutes of Health have more oral health problems to add to the list from CDC:
- Spots or holes in the teeth
- Chronic mouth, jaw or face pain
- Loose teeth
- Tooth pain when chewing
- Bad breath
- Odd tastes in the mouth
The CDC tells us that insulin mixes with saliva in the mouth. When the bacteria usually residing on the tongue mixes with the saliva, it forms plaque on the enamel of the teeth. Elevated blood glucose means elevated plaque. When left too long, then it eats away at the teeth, causing gingivitis. When it’s left longer than that, then periodontal disease sets in, and diabetics lose their teeth.
What Diabetics Can Do
The Mayo Clinic advises diabetics to pay close attention to their blood glucose and their mouths:
- Keep strict control over your blood sugar
- Brush at least twice daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush. Don’t scrub the teeth, be gentle. Toss out the toothbrush every three months or so due to bacteria building up in the bristles over time
- Floss at least once a day. This keeps plaque from building up between teeth and the gum line
- Keep an eye on your mouth. When the gums are swollen, red or bleeding, it’s time to see the dentist
- Tell your dentist you have diabetes. He looks for different things, and will coordinate with your primary care physician to help you manage your diabetes
- See your dentist regularly
- Don’t smoke
An interesting portion of the CDC paper states that when less than 20 teeth are present, food is not chewed properly. Therefore, it cheats the body of adequate nutrition. The teeth don’t get the nutrients they need for proper oral health, either.
In a paper describing the causes, effects and prevention of periodontal disease, the World Health Organization or WHO suggested lifestyle elements as some causes of the problem. Stress, alcohol and tobacco use and diet were listed as triggers for systemic diseases. Remember we talked about the body systems interacting with each other. Oral health is affected by all of these. Working closely with a primary care physician as well as a dental professional, diabetics may eliminate unhealthy lifestyle choices in return for a healthy mouth. Additionally, caring for the mouth with brushing, flossing and regular dental visits may prevent the onset of periodontitis.
The mouth is such an important part of our lives, from a healthy white smile to maintaining a healthy diet. The dentists’ at TruBlu Dentistry will consult with you regarding your lifestyle choices, dietary elements and any diseases you might endure. Together, we will ensure a healthy mouth and a healthy life when you contact us to tell us all about it.