What does diabetes have to do with oral health?
When a body is suffering from diabetes, the structure of the blood vessels is altered. This in turn may affect the efficiency of the blood flow which may weaken the bone and the gums leaving them more prone to infections. Periodontal disease is one such infection.
It is estimated that 1 in 3 diabetics suffer from periodontis (gum disease) at some stage of their disease. It can be seen in both children and adults and, more commonly, in those with poorly managed diabetes. It has been recorded as affecting children as young as 6 years old.
Furthermore, if diabetes is not strictly managed, there may be higher than usual levels of glucose in the saliva which will encourage the extra growth of harmful bacteria. These bacteria combine with food to form a soft sticky film called plaque. Some types of plaque cause tooth decay. Other types of plaque cause gum disease and bad breath.
Because of the restrictions with blood flow, gum disease is often more severe and can take longer to heal in a diabetic. In turn, having gum disease can make your blood glucose harder to control.
The most common mouth problems seen in diabetics
Gingivitis: Unhealthy or inflamed gums which appear red, swollen or bleed when stimulated.
Daily brushing/flossing and regular cleans at the dentist should help to prevent/treat
Periodontis This follows on from gingivitis and occurs when inflammation in the gums is not
treated and the bone holding the teeth in comes under attack as a battle between
plaque bacteria and the body’s immune system take place.
Common symptoms include red, swollen, bleeding gums, bad breath, mobile or
moving teeth, pus exudates or a bad taste when cleaning.
Deep cleaning by your dentist or hygienist and excellent oral hygiene will be
required to manage this condition. In severe cases, medication may be prescribed
and/or surgery may be required.
Oral Thrush (Candidiasis): the growth of a naturally occurring fungus that the body is unable to
Symptoms include sore, white or occasionally red patches on the gums, tongue,
cheeks or palate.
Treatment may include oral hygiene instruction, medicine from your GP or dentist or
denture hygiene instructions if applicable.
Xerostomia (Dry mouth) a lack of saliva in your mouth which raises your risk of tooth decay
and gum disease.
Symptoms include a dry feeling in your mouth often or all of the time. Dry, rough
tongue, pain (general) in the soft tissues, cracked lips, problems chewing, eating
Treatment may include taking medicine to keep your mouth wet, rinsing with a high
fluoride mouth wash to prevent tooth decay, chewing sugar free gum to stimulate
saliva, avoiding tobacco, caffeine and alcohol, avoiding salty/spicy foods that may
cause pain in a dry mouth.
Oral Burning A burning sensation inside the mouth caused by uncontrolled blood glucose
levels. Symptoms include a burning feeling in the mouth, dry mouth, and bitter taste. Symptoms may worsen throughout the day.
Treatment should include a discussion with your doctor who may alter medication.
Once the blood glucose is under control, the oral burning will go away.
Routine dental checkups and visits to the hygienist are now considered an essential part of managing general health in an individual with diabetes.Book now