With hundreds of millions of diagnoses worldwide, diabetes is a major concern for all medical professionals, and dentists are no exception. We know that diabetic patients need to take special precautions when it comes to their health care, so we created this quick guide on what diabetes means for your dental care.
You Are More Likely to Develop Gum Disease
Higher levels of blood sugar increase the likelihood of getting infections throughout the body. For diabetic patients, the risk of developing periodontitis—the most severe form of gum disease—is much higher than for the general population. In fact, diabetes is believed to be one of the leading causes of gum disease. Furthermore, infected gums can increase blood sugar levels and therefore worsen diabetic symptoms, creating a vicious cycle as the two conditions feed into one another.
To prevent gum disease, it is essential that you consistently brush and floss. Inflamed gums that bleed when you brush or floss are not normal and you should tell us about them as soon as possible!
You May Have Deficient Saliva
Diabetes is also known to increase the amount of sugar your saliva contains. While it may seem gross to most, saliva is actually one of the most important parts of a healthy mouth! Saliva’s power to remove leftover food particles and kill bacteria is your first-line defense against oral disease. Oral bacteria loves to feed on sugar, so excess sugar in your saliva puts you at a greater risk of developing infections and poor oral hygiene. Additionally, diabetes—and even some medications used to treat it—can cause dry mouth (xerostomia), which means you may not be producing enough saliva in the first place!
Two of the most common problems encountered by diabetic patients with deficient saliva are tooth decay and bacterial or fungal infections. While you are probably already aware of cavities, you should also look out for a fungal infection known as thrush. This most often presents itself as red or white patches or sores inside your mouth and on your tongue.
Your best weapons against these dental enemies are hydration (six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day) and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. If you have dry mouth, you can try chewing sugarless gum to help stimulate saliva production.
Your Mouth May Take Longer to Heal
If you have diabetes and must undergo a dental procedure that your mouth will need time to recover from, it is extremely important to discuss the risks with your dentist. You may need to take special precautions or wait until your blood sugar levels are lower before receiving any dental treatments. Diabetes restricts blood circulation, making it more difficult for your body to repair itself. This can lead to infections and a variety of other complications.
We think it is important to remind you not to stress out over these things; all of them can be avoided with thorough oral hygiene. If you have diabetes, we encourage you to talk to us about your options so we can give you the specialized care you need.