Dental health is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with chronic diseases. Many diseases can make you more susceptible to dental problems, making it essential to visit a dentist regularly and take good care of your teeth and gums. Diabetes is one of those diseases. People with diabetes do not make any insulin, do not make enough insulin, or their insulin is not used by their body effectively, causing their blood sugar levels to rise. Insulin is a hormone that signals blood sugar, also called glucose, to enter the cells instead of remaining in the bloodstream. If you have diabetes, you have an increased risk for gum disease, and you may also be more susceptible to problems associated with mouth sores and cuts in the mouth.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, gum disease is more common in people with diabetes than it is in people who do not have gum disease. Gum disease is a chronic infection that develops due to the presence of plaque, a substance made up of bacteria and food particles, on the teeth. In its early stages, gum disease is referred to as gingivitis. Advanced gum disease is known as periodontitis. People without any major health problems are usually able to fight off this infection, especially if they brush and floss regularly.
In people with diabetes, the body's ability to fight infection is reduced. Even with good dental hygiene, a person with diabetes may not be able to fight the infection before it turns into periodontitis. Another reason people with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease is that diabetes can damage the blood vessels. Good blood flow is necessary for the gums to fight off infection. If a diabetic's circulation is impaired due to these blood-vessel changes, the gums may not receive adequate blood flow, further reducing their ability to fight the bacteria found in plaque. Diabetics with gum disease also tend to have more difficulty controlling their blood sugar than diabetics without gum disease. The risk of developing gum disease is especially high in diabetics who smoke cigarettes and chew tobacco.
Mouth Cuts and Sores
In diabetics, it also takes more time to heal from cuts, scrapes, and other injuries. High blood sugar levels interfere with the healing process in several ways. When your glucose level is high, it prevents the right amount of oxygen from reaching the cells, which increases the amount of time it takes to heal from even minor injuries. High glucose levels also increase inflammation and interfere with the function of the immune system. All of these factors come together to make it difficult for diabetics to health from wounds. Many diabetics develop wounds on their feet, but mouth wounds are also a concern. If you cut your mouth on a sharp piece of food or you develop a mouth sore, it may take a long time for the wound to heal. Slow-healing wounds can cause discomfort and interfere with your ability to maintain good oral hygiene.
Preventing Dental Problems
Not all diabetics can completely avoid dental problems, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. The best thing you can do is keep your blood sugar under control. If your doctor prescribed medication, take it exactly as directed. Follow your doctor's orders regarding diet and exercise, as both of these lifestyle factors have an effect on glucose levels. Visit your dentist regularly and be sure to let your dentist know if you have diabetes. In between dental appointments, floss daily and brush your teeth at least twice per day. Brushing and flossing remove harmful bacteria from your teeth, reducing the risk that you will develop gum disease.
Diabetes and other chronic medical conditions increase the risk for some dental problems. If you have diabetes and are concerned about your dental health, call your dental clinic, such as RTC Dental, to discuss your concerns.