Diabetes Affects Your Dental Health
November is national diabetes month, so we thought now is the perfect time to tell you about the connection between diabetes and oral health. Diabetes is a disease where blood glucose (blood sugar levels) are high. This can lead to a range of physical complications, but few realize that higher blood sugar levels have dental impacts too. If you have diabetes, paying attention to the symptoms and practicing some smart strategies can improve both your oral and overall health.
Even if you don’t have diabetes, you probably know someone who does. In Oregon, diabetes among adults has more than doubled over the past 20 years, and today nearly 1 in every 10 adult Oregonians has been diagnosed with diabetes.
High glucose levels in your blood mean an increase of glucose in your saliva too, and saliva with high glucose levels can promote oral infections. High blood sugar levels may prevent proper healing, and this means that cold sores and cuts in your mouth may not heal the way they should.
To complicate matters, people with diabetes also have less saliva, and some medications reduce saliva flow. Because saliva has protective properties, that dry mouth can make your mouth sore, put you at a higher risk for cavities and mouth ulcers, and make you more vulnerable to infections like gum disease. High saliva glucose levels and dry mouth might also cause a yeast infection called thrush, which creates a white coating or painful white patches inside your mouth.
Research shows that gum disease is more prevalent among those with diabetes. If left untreated, gum disease can progress from inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) into periodontitis. This severe form of gum disease may lead to painful chewing problems, require gum surgery, destroy the bone around teeth, or even lead to tooth loss.
What’s more, as a bacterial infection, gum disease can actually affect your diabetes too. Any infection may increase your blood sugar, and controlling your blood sugar levels is critical to preventing harmful conditions caused by diabetes. So there’s a circular effect at work here: gum disease makes it harder to manage diabetes, which makes you more susceptible to infections like gum disease, which then reduces your ability to fight gum disease.
Our Team Can Help
If you have diabetes, know the Mint Dental Works team is on your side. Here are some strategies that will help you protect your teeth and gums and improve your overall health.
- It’s more important than ever to brush twice daily and floss once a day to minimize plaque.
- If you notice a white coating or white patches, swollen or bleeding gums, or have a cut inside your mouth that won’t heal, make an appointment with us.
- Be sure to tell us if you have diabetes so our team can be on the watch for associated dental health symptoms.
- Come in for regular hygiene appointments. Research suggests that professional cleanings can help lower your three-month average blood sugar levels.
- Find out the details of your dental insurance plan, as some providers cover additional cleanings for diabetes patients.
If you don’t have diabetes, share this information with someone who does. It could help them control their blood sugar levels and help make their smile brighter.