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Diabetes and Dental Care. Why People with Diabetes Need to See a Dentist

Diabetes and Dental Care. Why People with Diabetes Need to See a Dentist

  By: Editors at DiabetesIQ  |  Published: May 01, 2021   
Published: May 01, 2021   

© Ajay Bhaskar | Dreamstime.com


If you live with diabetes, you are at a higher risk of tooth and gum problems, so it is important to regularly look after your oral health and regularly get dental check-ups. People who have diabetes have irregular blood glucose levels, which leads to a risk of various tooth problems and diseases. This typically happens because people with diabetes have a lower resistance to infection and may not heal as quickly as people who don't have diabetes.

If you are living with type I or type II diabetes, it is essential to pay special attention to your oral health while also controlling your blood glucose levels. Visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups and advice on keeping you healthy is the key to avoiding major dental issues.

 

What are some of the most common oral health issues affecting people with diabetes?

It is common for people with diabetes to experience dental problems. Sometimes, the first signs and symptoms of diabetes actually occur in the mouth. Therefore, paying attention to your oral health can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment for diabetes.

Some of the most common oral health problems that people with diabetes experience include the following:

 

  • A dry, burning mouth (typically caused by low saliva levels)
  • Fungal infections 
  • Gum abscesses
  • Lichen planus (an autoimmune skin condition)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Taste disturbances
  • Tooth decay

 

Diabetes and gum disease 

Gum disease is caused by an infection destroying the bone supporting and surrounding your teeth. The destruction is caused by bacteria and food debris that form dental plaque. If plaque is not removed from the teeth and gums, it hardens to form tartar, which irritates the gums and leads to the progression of the disease, meaning that you will lose more and more bone. Eventually, your teeth become loose and may need to be removed or may even fall out by themselves.

The damage is more severe and more common in people with irregular blood glucose levels. This typically happens because these people have a lower resistance to infection and a limited healing capacity. 

If you have diabetes, it's essential to control your blood glucose levels and look after your oral health. This is basically a two-way street and treating gum disease may help to improve blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.

 

Diabetes and tooth decay 

People with diabetes have increased blood sugar levels, which means they may have more glucose in their saliva. This leads to a dry mouth and allows dental plaque to build upon the teeth, which ultimately leads to tooth decay.

By visiting your dentist regularly, you can have the dental plaque remove successfully, which is one of the best ways to avoid cavities. You should also ensure that you clean your teeth and gums thoroughly twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. 

It's important to use dental floss or interdental cleaners to clean between your teeth every day. By taking care of your teeth and having regular check-ups with your dentist, you can prevent both cavities and gum disease and keep your teeth healthy.

 

Diabetes and oral fungal infections

People with diabetes are more likely to develop thrush, an oral fungal infection caused by a type of yeast, Candida albicans, which naturally occurs in the mouth. Some conditions caused by diabetes, such as poor resistance to infection, dry mouth, and high glucose in saliva, can contribute to the development of oral thrush.

Oral thrush typically causes red or white patches on the skin of the mouth, which may result in discomfort and even ulcers. By keeping your blood glucose levels in check and practicing good oral hygiene, you can successfully treat oral thrush. It's important to visit your dentist to treat this condition because they can prescribe you antifungal medications to help you heal quickly.

 

How to care for your teeth and gums if you have diabetes? 

If you are living with type I or type II diabetes and want to prevent oral health problems, here's what you need to do:

  • Visit your dentist at least twice a year, follow their advice regarding your diet, and take proper care of your teeth and gums. Your dentist will typically need to know your blood glucose levels and the medications you're taking to manage diabetes.
      
  • Clean your teeth twice a day and floss every day to clean between your teeth.
      
  • Avoid having a dry mouth by drinking plenty of water to stimulate saliva production.
      
  • If you are smoking, trying to quit. Your doctor can help you with guidance and support if you are struggling to stop smoking on your own.


Many people become a bit anxious before dentist appointments, but if you have diabetes, never put off a visit to the dentist. Make sure you let your dentist know that you have diabetes because they may need to take this into account when recommending treatment.


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