Diabetes and Dental Health: What You Should Know - Step To Health

Diabetes and Dental Health: What You Should Know

Diabetes can affect your dental health. We'll tell you about the most common oral problems and what you can do to prevent them.
Diabetes and Dental Health: What You Should Know

Last update: 20 November, 2021

Patients with diabetes can suffer from oral problems that affect their dental health. In particular, the high blood sugar levels that characterize this disease cause damage throughout the body, including in the oral cavity.

This chronic disease alters the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. The excess of this substance in the blood causes damage to many organs of the body. Heart, kidney, vision, and nervous system problems are some of the most frequent consequences of this disease.

It also affects the body’s natural wound healing processes and brings an increased risk of infections. The mouth isn’t exempt from this tissue damage caused by excess sugar in the blood. Would you like to get to know more about it? Keep reading.

What is the relationship between diabetes and dental health?

The relationship between diabetes and damage to dental health is bidirectional. In both conditions, the inflammatory processes are increased, which causes microvascular alterations in the tissues. Thus, the presence of one of the two conditions predisposes us to the development of the other or worsens the condition if it already exists.

People with certain oral problems, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease, are more likely to suffer from diabetes than those with healthy gums. On the other hand, those with a systemic disease often have severe pyorrhea, which in turn makes it difficult to control blood glucose.

Thus, having high blood glucose levels increases the chances of developing periodontal disease and, in the long term, tooth loss.

Another reason for oral damage is that uncontrolled diabetes hinders the action of white blood cells. These cells are the body’s main defense against infections that can occur in the mouth.

The situation is made worse by high levels of glucose in the saliva, as it encourages the growth of bacteria in the mouth, thus damaging the health of teeth and gums.

A woman with a sugar cube.
Having high blood sugar levels increases the risk of diseases such as gingivitis, tooth decay, and periodontitis.

What dental health problems does diabetes cause?

Here are the most common dental health problems in patients with diabetes.

  • Gingivitis: This is the inflammation of the gum tissue, which increases in size, becomes bright red, bleeds, and hurts. The weakness of the white blood cells and vascular problems hinder the gums’ ability to defend themselves against bacteria in the mouth, which is why it’s a common and severe problem.
  • Periodontitis: This is the evolution of gingivitis. It affects the tissues that support the teeth. Deep inflammation and infection damage the periodontal ligament and the alveolar bone. This affects the support for the teeth, which can move or even fall out.
  • Dry mouth: If diabetes isn’t controlled, salivary flow can decrease, leading to dry mouth. Xerostomia not only causes discomfort for the patient, but also increases the risk of pain, ulcers, cavities, bad breath, and infections.
  • Difficulty in healing oral tissues: In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, wounds in the mouth caused by trauma or surgery heal with difficulty. Post-operative complications are quite common.
  • Oral Candidiasis: This is a fungal infection that takes advantage of high sugar levels and low immune response in order to proliferate. It usually manifests with ulcers or painful, whitish or red plaques on the oral mucosa. It’s more common in patients who wear dentures or who take antibiotics frequently.
  • Caries: Bacteria in the mouth take advantage of carbohydrates in the diet and metabolize them; this produces an acid that demineralizes the hard tissues of the teeth.

Dental care for people with diabetes

People with diabetes are more likely to have conditions that damage their dental health. For this reason, rigorously following certain healthy habits is essential for your oral health. Here are some recommendations.

1. Control blood sugar levels

Most complications and tissue damage are caused by high blood sugar levels. For this reason, one of the best ways to avoid damage to dental health and the entire body is to try to keep blood sugar levels close to normal.

Having blood sugar tests as prescribed by your doctor, and lab tests that measure glycosylated hemoglobin, helps you to keep tabs on your blood sugar levels. The ideal thing is to take the medication prescribed by the professional, combining it with a proper diet and exercise.

2. Maintain proper oral hygiene

A useful strategy to counteract the risk of diseases in the mouth is to avoid the accumulation of bacterial plaque. Oral hygiene plays a fundamental role in achieving this.

We recommend that you clean your teeth and gums three times a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. You should also complement dental hygiene using dental floss and rinses.

If you use dentures, then taking care of their maintenance is of vital importance. Checking their correct fit in the mouth on a regular basis and cleaning them carefully helps to avoid injuries and infections.

Removing them every night and cleaning them every day helps to keep them in good condition. Using effervescent tablets created for this purpose, once a week, helps to avoid their deterioration. You also need to ensure that they don’t move and that there are no lesions in the mucous membranes under, or around, the prosthesis.

3. Visit the dentist frequently

Visiting the dentist frequently, at least twice a year, is essential to maintain dental health. The dentist may recommend that you have check-ups more often. By doing so, he or she can assess the condition of your teeth and gums to detect any damage that may have occurred. This way, they can address the issue in a timely manner.

Professional cleanings will help remove tartar and keep your gums healthy. This procedure is very helpful in preventing gingivitis and periodontal disease, which are so common in diabetic patients.

The person must comply with all of the dentist’s instructions. As already mentioned, the healing of tissues is more difficult and slower when suffering from diabetes, and postoperative care is essential to avoid complications.

4. Inform the dentist about everything relevant to the disease

When visiting the dentist, the diabetic patient should inform the dentist about their condition. In addition, they should tell them if they’re taking any medication, when they took it, and the date and results of the last laboratory tests.

It’s useful to keep a list of all the medications you take. With this information, the dentist will be able to prescribe other medications correctly. This prevents problems with drugs interacting badly with each other.

Among other things, it’s important to tell them if you have suffered episodes of hypoglycemia in the past, as they can easily occur again. In such cases, you’ll need to specify how often they occur and the last time you had one.

Ideally, the name and telephone number of the family doctor should be given to the dentist so that they can be contacted in case of any concerns.

In certain cases, it may be necessary to take antibiotics before a dental procedure, change meal times or medication dosage. If so, the management of the situation between the two professionals is important.

If blood sugar levels aren’t well-controlled, only dental emergencies such as acute infections, abscesses, or trauma should be treated. Other treatments should be postponed until blood sugar levels are normal.

A woman with her dentist.
The dentist should be aware of the existence of diabetes. . In addition, they should know the medications that are consumed to control it.

You may be interested in: What Are the Symptoms of Hypoglycemia?

5. Avoid smoking

Diabetic patients who smoke have a higher risk of suffering severe complications with this disease. Oral pathologies occur more aggressively and with more rapid progression.

Those who suffer from periodontal disease are more likely to lose their teeth, for example. For this reason, it’s essential to stop smoking.

Monitor the situation carefully

As we have explained, diabetes is a disease that can jeopardize the dental health of those who suffer from it. However, this shouldn’t be something that you worry you unduly.

With the right precautions and care, it’s possible to keep your teeth in good condition. Acting responsibly to limit blood glucose levels within normal parameters helps to avoid many oral complications.

Paying special attention to dental hygiene and visiting the dentist frequently are other aspects that help to look after your teeth. With the necessary effort, it’s possible to have a healthy smile!

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