In the United States, there are almost 65 million people with periodontal disease and approximately 30 million have diabetes. Diabetes and gum disease may be linked through a two-way process. Patients with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, and patients with gum disease are at an increased risk for other diabetic complications.
Risk Factors for Patients with Diabetes
Managing blood sugar levels is key for those with diabetes. The higher the blood sugar level, the higher the risk of:
- Tooth decay – The mouth naturally contains a wide range of bacteria. Bacteria form a white, sticky film that develops around the gum line, known as plaque. Starches and sugars in food and drinks interact with these bacteria, forming acids that can attack the teeth and lead to cavities. When you have a high blood sugar level, the greater the supply of sugar, the more acidic the teeth become.
- Gum disease – This is a chronic bacterial infection of the gums that affects the gum tissue and bone that supports the teeth. Over time, the buildup of plaque bacteria will eventually harden into calcium deposits called calculus or tartar at the gumline. Brushing and flossing will not remove this hardened buildup of plaque. If this buildup is not removed by your dental office, it will cause inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis. This will eventually spread to the underlying bone and can cause bone loss.
- Fungal infection – A yeast infection can often be found as lesions on the skin, mouth, and throat. Candida infections of the mouth occur frequently and are treated with special mouthwashes, antifungal medication, and by controlling blood sugar levels.
- Dry mouth – Uncontrolled diabetes decreases saliva flow and causes dry mouth, which can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. It can also affect chewing, speaking, swallowing, and the ability to taste. Sipping water throughout the day can help relieve dry mouth.
Prevention and Oral Care
In order to prevent infections and complications that can damage teeth and gums, people with diabetes must take their condition and oral care seriously by doing the following:
- Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and keep them within the normal range.
- Schedule regular hygiene appointments with your dental office.
- Look for early signs of gum disease.
- Refrain from using tobacco products.
- Maintain good oral hygiene.
With diabetes increasing your overall risk of gum disease and tooth decay, it is vital that you have good oral hygiene habits and see your dentist regularly. You can control the risks associated with diabetes and avoid the potential for extensive dental treatment in the future. Please contact our dental office to schedule an appointment.