Diabetes and Dental Health
What is the connection?

Diabetes and Dental Health
Does Diabetes affect Dental Health?

According to the CDC’s study in 2014, it is estimated that almost 29 million people in the United States have some form of diabetes. Those who battle this disease know that it can impact many areas of the body – it’s commonly associated with diseases of the kidneys, eyes, nerves and cardiovascular system. Drs. Hochberg and Diora remind us that what is often overlooked is the effect that diabetes can have on one’s dental health. Whether type 1 or type 2, when diabetes becomes a chronic condition, research has confirmed a link between it and the oral cavity. And, this year, according to the American Dental Association, one in five people who experience total tooth loss has diabetes.

To best understand the connection between diabetes and oral health, let’s take a moment to review some basic dental facts, answering the question – What is periodontal disease? It’s an infection of the structures that support and surround our teeth. The first sign is gums that are swollen or bleed when brushing, called gingivitis. Left untreated the infection can progress into the bone that supports your teeth. Once the infection has spread to this point, periodontitis, the risk for tooth mobility and possible loss is increased. Periodontal disease is of great concern to patients otherwise in good health – everyone wants to keep their teeth for a lifetime! But, it’s even more challenging for those with diabetes. According to an article from the American Diabetes Association on Oct 10, 2014,

“…emerging research also suggests that the relationship between serious gum disease and diabetes is two-way. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may have the   potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes”.

It sounds like circular reasoning but it’s true. Those with poorly controlled diabetes are at a higher risk for periodontal disease. And those with diabetes who have periodontal disease find it more difficult to control their diabetes. How and why is there this correlation? Those with diabetes are shown to be at a higher risk of thickening of blood vessels, which carry nutrients and oxygen to tissues and carry away waste products. This includes the gum tissue as well, leaving it more exposed the to risk of infection – periodontal disease. And, on the other end of the ‘two-way street’, patients with periodontal disease have an infection, no different than any other bodily infection. And, like any infection, periodontal disease can cause an increase in blood sugar levels, making glucose levels more difficult to control.

Other concerns we note with our diabetic patients are …

  • Xerostomia (dry – mouth) many medications inhibit the body’s production of saliva, which keeps your mouth moist, and comfortable. But this also occurs when blood sugar levels are not controlled. The glucose level in one’s saliva increases while at the same time there is a reduction in the body’s production of this natural tooth protector. The result? Dry-mouth and teeth that are more susceptible to decay.
  • Thrush – either on your tongue, or on the inside of your mouth, red or white patches are symptoms of this oral fungal infection.
  • Children’s cavities – children with IDDM (insulin–dependent diabetes mellitus) are shown to have more cavities.
  • Longer healing times – when undergoing oral surgery, such as an extraction. If it’s not an emergency, we will consider your blood glucose levels before scheduling dental surgery.
  • Changes in the taste of foods – a frequent complaint. What is important is to find healthy substitutes to enhance taste, avoiding adding extra sugar.

It goes without saying that the goal for our patients with diabetes is to control their glycemic levels. At Colony Square Dental Associates our role is partner with you to keep your mouth healthy. Ensuring that you maintain excellent periodontal health not only keeps your smile intact, but also healthier gums translate to a healthier you. What can you do to help out?

  • Brush and floss twice a day
  • Exercise and eat healthy
  • If you are a denture wearer – be sure to keep it clean
  • Call when you note any changes that occur in your mouth
  • Visit us periodically for your regular dental visits

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