Diabetes is a serious condition and one that’s on the rise in the developed world
11 November 2018| Last updated on 13 November 2018
Most of us know diabetes affects blood sugar levels – but you might not be aware of its impact on teeth and gums.
Diabetes means either your body can’t react to or produce enough insulin, the magic hormone that controls blood sugar. If your blood sugar isn’t regulated, then it has a host of implications.
For your mouth, it means you’re at a higher risk of developing problems like gum disease and tooth decay. If you’re a sufferer, it’s vital that you look after yourself carefully – mouth health included.
Why is Diabetes a problem for teeth?
Diabetes causes your blood sugar levels to change much more than normal. It also leads to reduced blood flow. In both these situations, teeth suffer. With high blood sugar levels, the ‘bad’ bacteria that live in your mouth are able to grow and thrive.
Lower blood flow means it’s harder for your mouth to naturally fight them off. And, gum problems in turn make it even harder for those levels to be controlled. That’s because fighting an infection causes blood sugar levels to increase naturally.
Issues with bacteria levels can often result in gum disease. Gum disease is basically where bacteria grow in and around the gums, forming a sticky plaque. In its early stages you might just notice sore or swollen gums, or bleeding when you brush your teeth.
At this point, its easily reversible, with the right care and with some advice from your dentist. If left untreated however, it can move on to periodontitis.
Here, more bacteria accumulate, meaning stickier plaque is produced. This cycle causes gums to pull away from teeth, making the teeth wobbly and less stable. Over time, they might even fall out. All in all, it’s a downward spiral you don’t want to get into.
Diabetes can also lead to other problems too. Sufferers are more likely to contract thrush, a fungal infection, or dry mouth. Dry mouth is a condition when not enough saliva is produced.
This means bacteria, food and bad stuff can’t be naturally rinsed out of the mouth – you might have a bad sore throat, or struggle to swallow or talk. As well as being uncomfortable, dry mouth means bacteria and plaque can build up, making them harder to clean and more prone to problems like decay and gum disease.
How to keep Teeth Healthy
While all of these conditions sound scary, with the right care and maintenance, diabetes needn’t spell out bad news for your mouth. To start, it’s absolutely essential to visit your dentist every six months - issues will be quicker and simpler to fix, if a dental professional is able to spot and treat them early on.
Keep a healthy diet, and don’t eat sugary or processed foods – this will make your diabetes easier to manage in general. Have a good hygiene routine at home. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly, and use an antiseptic mouthwash regularly.
Buy a soft toothbrush that won’t irritate your gums. Last of all, be careful with your lifestyle choices. Don’t smoke, and try to drink alcohol sensibly. All of this will help keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range – and lower the chances of developing problems in the first place.
It sounds obvious, but make sure your dentist is aware if you have diabetes. If your dentist knows about all medical conditions, then they are better equipped to keep you healthy and happy. You might also want to ask your dentist to show you how to brush your teeth.
It sounds a little silly, but it’s easy to slip into bad habits over time, and it’s very important for diabetes sufferers to be extra-vigilant when it comes to dental health.
And if you suddenly develop bleeding gums or bad breath that won’t go away, see your dentist. Drs. Nicolas & Asp has a range of dental professionals, who are all able to provide the specialised care that diabetes sufferers require.