When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t process sugar properly.
In Type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, which is the more common type of diabetes, the body no longer responds to insulin.
Both types can result in increased blood sugar levels, which can weaken the white blood cells or the body’s defence against bacterial infections.
How Diabetes is Connected to Your Oral Health
Diabetes can affect every part of your body, which includes your mouth. If left untreated, it may cause dry mouth, increased risk of cavities, gum inflammation, weakened sense of taste, and delayed healing from wounds.
How Diabetes Affects your mouth:
Dry Mouth. Diabetes slows down saliva flow in the mouth. This can leave your mouth dry and more vulnerable to acid attacks. Without enough saliva in the mouth, your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease can also increase.
Gingivitis. Diabetes makes your body less capable of fighting bacteria. You need to ensure proper brushing and flossing to prevent the buildup of tartar in your mouth. The longer plaque and tartar stay in your mouth, the higher the chances of them causing irritation to your gums. Your gums may swell and bleed easily. When gingivitis progresses, it may result in receding gums and tooth loss. Infection in the gums may also increase sugar levels in the body and make diabetes more difficult to manage.
Cavities. Bacteria naturally exist in the mouth. When sugar and starch combine with bacteria, plaque forms. Acids found in plaque attack the tooth enamel and can result in cavities and gum disease. The more sugar there is in the mouth, the more acid is produced and the higher the chances of the teeth enamel wearing away.
Infections. Thrush is a fungal yeast infection that causes white or red patches inside the mouth. These patches may turn into open sores. Those with diabetes, wearing dentures, smoking, or taking antibiotics may be more likely to develop thrush. There are other types of fungal infections, and thrush is only one of them.
Slower healing. When you have diabetes, wounds and infections heal slowly. By stopping cavities and gum disease in their tracks, you can avoid the need for treatments.
How Your Dentist Can Help
Maintain regular dental visits and always stay on top of your professional dental cleaning. Preventing gum disease can help you keep your blood sugar levels in check and keep diabetes from progressing.
Teamwork between you and your dental team is important in keeping your mouth healthy and managing diabetes. Commit to good oral hygiene habits at home. If you’re a dental appliance, be sure to clean it daily.
Follow the instructions of your doctor in managing your sugar levels, and with good sugar levels, you can also protect your mouth and body against bacterial infections. Caring for your mouth and managing diabetes are both lifelong processes. Your hard work and discipline will benefit both your oral and general health.