Protecting Your Smile When You Have Diabetes
Diabetes increases the risk of mouth problems, but this has (almost) nothing to do with your sugar intake. The main culprit is actually hyperglycemia.
The effect of blood glucose
Your body can react in many different ways to improperly managed blood glucose. You produce less saliva, and the smaller amount you do produce contains more glucose, which can lead to dry mouth, ulcers, tooth decay or yeast infections. Due to hyperglycemia, there is increased glucose in the saliva which promotes the spread of bacteria, decreases nutrient absorption and slows healing. This partly explains why you’re more likely to develop gum disease and have it progress faster.
A vicious cycle
The chain doesn’t stop there; gum disease, in turn, makes diabetes management more complicated, since the infection produces toxins that hinder carbohydrate synthesis. Thus, it can increase your insulin resistance, and ultimately your blood glucose and your risk of cardiovascular problems.
Beyond hyperglycemia, sugar intake, smoking and poor oral hygiene are the main causes of mouth problems in people living with diabetes.
This is the first stage of gum disease. Plaque accumulates on the teeth, most often because of lacking oral hygiene. Gums then become red and swollen and can bleed when teeth are brushed and dental floss is used. Gingivitis can be cured with better care, the use of an antiseptic mouthwash and a good, thorough cleaning at the dentist’s.
This is the evolved—and much more serious—form of gingivitis. The accumulated plaque solidifies under the gums and causes them to shrink so that pockets of bacteria form and teeth become loose. At an advanced stage, the disease causes tooth mobility and loss due to the destruction of the bone support. There are several treatments for this, from simple curettage to gingival or bone grafts. Since periodontitis can sometimes be asymptomatic, it’s essential to visit a dentist regularly so it can be diagnosed before it wreaks havoc.
Prevention is key
- Brush your teeth twice a day—ideally after each meal.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months to prevent the proliferation of germs.
- Visit your dentist at least once every six months, as they recommend.
- Keep your blood glucose levels within optimal ranges.
- Stop smoking.
The bottom line
With a healthy lifestyle, good oral hygiene and properly managed blood glucose, you’ve got every chance of avoiding all such unpleasantness. Start acting preventively today, and keep those pearly whites shining bright!
American Diabetes Association (n.d). Diabetes and Oral Health Problems. Retrieved from: http://archives.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/diabetes-and-oral-health.html. Accessed May 13 2021.
Cleveland Clinic (2019). Oral Health Problems and Diabetes. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11263-oral-health-problems-and-diabetes. Accessed May 13 2021.
Diabète Québec (2016). Dental Hygiene and Diabetes. Retrieved from: https://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/care-and-treatment/soins-du-corps/hygiene-dentaire-et-diabete/. Accessed May 13 2021.
Diabète Québec (2016). Le diabète et la santé buccale. Retrieved from: https://www.diabete.qc.ca/medias/upload/files/DQ_2016_depliant_buccodentaire.pdf. Accessed May 13 2021.
Diabète Québec (2014). Periodontitis: a type of Gum Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/understand-diabetes/all-about-diabetes/complications/la-parodontite-la-maladie-des-gencives/. Accessed May 13 2021.
Everyday Health (2018). What gum disease can mean for your overall health. Retrieved from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/periodontal-disease/what-gum-disease-can-mean-your-overall-health/. Accessed May 13 2021.
Fédération française des diabétiques (n.d). Complications des dents et des gencives. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes/art-20043848?pg=1. Accessed May 13 2021.
Mayo Clinic (2020). Diabetes and dental care: Guide to a healthy mouth. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes/art-20043848?pg=1. Accessed May 13 2021.
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