Did you know that about 37.3 million Americans, or 10.5 percent of the population, are diabetic?
A key findings is that about 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes. About 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t even know they have it! Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of this condition. Although not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight, obesity and an inactive lifestyle are two of the most common causes of type 2 diabetes. These things are responsible for about 95 percent of diabetes cases in the United States. This is preventable!
Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. In Type 2, which is typically adult onset, the body stops responding to insulin. This results in high blood sugar levels, which can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, oral health and other parts of your body.
First, it’s important to understand the signs of diabetes and the roles they play in your oral health.
The Symptoms of Untreated Diabetes
The warning signs of diabetes affect every part of your body. After a blood test, you may be told by a doctor that you have high blood sugar. You may feel excessively thirsty or have to urinate a lot. Weight loss and fatigue are also common symptoms.
If diabetes is left untreated, it can take a toll on your oral health as well, leading to symptoms like:
- Less saliva, leading to dry mouth and heightened vulnerability to tooth decay
- Gums may become inflamed and bleed often (gingivitis)
- Problems tasting food
- Delayed wound healing
- Susceptible to infections inside of your mouth
Why People with Diabetes Are More Prone to Gum Disease
All people have tiny bacteria living in their mouth, making up a healthy biome. If unhealthy bacteria make their home in your gums, you may end up with periodontal disease. This chronic, inflammatory disease can destroy your gums, all the tissues holding your teeth, and eventually, the jawbone.
Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those with diabetes, affecting nearly 23 percent of those diagnosed. Especially with increasing age, poor blood sugar control increases the risk for gum problems. Adults with diabetes are at a higher risk for gum problems because of poor blood sugar control. As with all infections, serious gum disease may cause blood sugar to rise. This makes diabetes harder to control because you’re more susceptible to infections and are less able to fight the bacteria invading the gums.
Regular dental visits are important. Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease. Practicing good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your dentist, Dr. Susan Fredericks, can help lower your HbA1c.
Teamwork involving self and professional care from your dentist will be beneficial in keeping your healthy smile as well as potentially slowing progression of diabetes. For optimal wellness, it’s important to:
- Control your blood sugar levels. Use your diabetes-related medications as directed, changing to a healthier diet and exercising more. Good blood sugar control will also help your body fight any bacterial or fungal infections in your mouth.
- Avoid smoking.
- If you wear any type of denture, clean it each day.
- Make sure to brush twice a day with a soft brush and clean between your teeth daily.
- See your dentist for regular checkups.
Notice some bleeding when you brush or floss? This may be an early sign of gum disease. If it becomes more severe, the bone that supports your teeth can break down, leading to tooth loss. Early gum disease can be reversed with proper brushing, flossing an improved diet and regular cleanings. Research has shown gum disease can worsen if your blood sugar is not under control, so do your best to keep it in check.
Diabetes also degrades your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection. Common among diabetics is a yeast infection called oral thrush (candidiasis). The yeast thrives on the higher amount of sugar found in your saliva, and it looks like a white layer coating your tongue and the insides of your cheeks. Thrush is more common in people who wear dentures and can often leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Have you ever noticed a cold sore or a cut in your mouth that doesn’t quite seem to go away? This can be another way that diabetes may affect your mouth. Poor control of blood sugar can keep injuries from healing quickly and properly. If you have something in your mouth that you feel isn’t healing as it should, see your Woodland Hills, CA dentist.