Taking good care of your teeth and gums is important for everyone, but even more so for people who have diabetes. People with diabetes may face more dental problems if their blood sugar levels are poorly controlled.
Dental Problems Linked With Diabetes
People with uncontrolled diabetes are at higher risk of the following conditions:
- Gum Disease. Also known as gingivitis. People with uncontrolled diabetes are at higher risk of gum disease as they are less resistant to fighting infections. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums which is caused by plaque which irritates the gums. Periodontal disease is a more advanced form of gum disease. Gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease if not properly managed. While gingivitis is inflamed gums, periodontal disease is inflammation of the bone surrounding and supporting the teeth. Loss of this bone structure can lead to the teeth becoming loose and eventually need to be removed.
- Poor healing after oral surgery. Poor healing is due to the poor blood flow at the site of the surgery. They may not be suitable candidates for implants as the failure rate is much higher in people with diabetes. Smoking further impacts the rate of healing for diabetics.
- Dry mouth. Also known as xerostomia. Diabetes can lessen the flow of saliva. One of the signs of xerostomia is a dry or burning sensation in the mouth. Dry mouth can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay (or holes in your teeth). Saliva protects the teeth against decay by cleansing the mouth of food particles that are left after eating. If this food is left against the teeth for long periods of time, this can lead to decay of the teeth.
- Oral fungal infections. Fungal infections in the mouth such as thrush are common in people with uncontrolled diabetes. People with diabetes often have a higher level of sugar in their saliva which the fungus thrives on. Diabetics who regularly take antibiotics for infections are also at higher risk of developing thrush.
Dental Care and Diabetes
Taking proper care of your teeth and gums is extremely important. Here are some tips for looking after your teeth if you have diabetes:
- Control your diabetes as well as possible and see your doctor regularly.
- Thoroughly brush your teeth twice a day.
- Floss your teeth at least once per day.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Twice per year is standard, but your dentist may recommend seeing you more regularly than that. Inform your dentist of the status of your diabetes. As uncontrolled diabetes can affect the rate at which you heal, this can impact the treatment they perform on you. Your dentist may also recommend that you see a dental hygienist have your professional cleans done. Hygienists are highly trained in looking after the health of your gums. They can also advise you on how best to look after your teeth at home.
- Bring an up-to-date list of all medications you are taking and the dosages.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of dental complications for people with diabetes. Talk to your doctor about quitting.
- If you wear dentures, be sure to remove and clean them every day. Do not wear them to bed.
- Make sure you are well hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure your mouth is not too dry. This will also help to remove food particles from the teeth after eating.