Diabetes & Oral Health: What You Need to Know
Many people know that diabetes can harm the eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other important systems in the body. What many don’t realize, is that this disease can wreak havoc on oral health as well.
Impact on Oral Health
In fact, those with diabetes have a higher chance of having periodontal (gum) disease – an infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. Periodontal disease can lead to pain, bad breath that doesn’t go away (halitosis), chewing difficulties, and even tooth loss. Not only that, but diabetes can also slow down healing – often interfering with the treatment of periodontitis.
Other oral health issues diabetes can cause are dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush, which causes painful white patches in your mouth. Dry mouth happens when you do not have enough saliva—the fluid that keeps your mouth wet. Dry mouth can cause soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay. Smoking makes these problems much worse. In addition, diabetes may also cause the level of sugar (glucose) in your saliva to increase. When combined, these issues may lead to thrush.
If your diabetes is not under control, you are more likely to develop problems in your mouth. In turn, having gum disease may make your blood sugar harder to control.
I have diabetes… what should I look out for?
If you have diabetes, be sure to take time to check your mouth regularly for any problems. Sometimes people notice that their gums appear swollen and bleed when they brush and floss. Others notice dryness, soreness, white patches, or a bad taste in the mouth. All of these are reasons to visit a dentist.
What treatment is available?
Treatment depends on which problem you have. People with periodontal disease will need to receive treatment from a dentist, who may do a deep cleaning of your teeth or refer you to a periodontist for gum surgery. The dentist may also prescribe a special mouth rinse.
To treat symptoms of thrush, a dentist or doctor may prescribe a medicine to kill the fungus that causes thrush. You may also need a special solution to clean dentures.
For dry mouth, a doctor or dentist may prescribe a medicine to keep your mouth wet.
What are some health tips?
Good blood glucose control is key to controlling and preventing mouth problems. People with poor blood glucose control get gum disease more often and more severely than people whose diabetes is well controlled. If you have diabetes, be sure to:
- Control your blood glucose.
- Brush twice a day and floss regularly.
- Visit your dentist for routine check-ups. Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
- Tell your dentist if your dentures (false teeth) do not fit right, or if your gums are sore.
- Quit smoking. Smoking makes gum disease worse. Your physician or dentist can help you quit.
Extra Insurance Benefits?
Many insurances will include more than the recommended two cleanings per year for those who have diabetes. If you or a loved one have this disease, we encourage you to check with your insurance provider to see if you are covered for more than two cleanings per year. Being seen more frequently by your dentist is a great way to maintain oral health and prevent diabetes from causing more harm.
Want to learn more, or have questions about diabetes and its effects on oral health? Curious about your health insurance coverage? Give the caring dentists at Gaston Dental Associates a call today at (704) 396-6166!
Want to learn more about periodontal disease? Check out our other blog post here.