There are 34.2 million people living in the United States with diabetes, over 10.5% of the entire American population (CDC, 2020). The disease is prevalent throughout the country, yet many people living with the disease don’t even know they have it. Although diabetes affects every part of your body, the varied symptoms can often go undetected. When undetected, diabetes can lead to serious health implications, including for your oral health. If you have diabetes, it is even more critical to see a dentist regularly and practice good daily oral care routines. With proper daily oral self-care, and regular professional care from your dentist, you can slow the progression of diabetes symptoms in your mouth, and help keep your smile healthy. Read on to learn more about diabetes, how it affects your oral health, and how La Mesa Hills Dentistry can help you keep your mouth in optimal health.
Diabetes affects every part of your body, including your mouth. When you eat food, your body turns that food into sugar and uses it for energy; diabetes affects your body’s ability to process that sugar. In Type I diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from your blood to the cells that need it for energy. In Type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. In both cases, the result is high blood sugar levels, which can then cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body. Diabetes can also impact your oral health, increasing your risk of dental disease and other symptoms that show up in your mouth.
It’s important to understand the warning signs of diabetes, because when left undiagnosed – and untreated – diabetes can cause a devastating toll on your health. One common indicator of diabetes is a blood test that shows you have high blood pressure. Other symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and fatigue. Diabetes can also affect your oral health, and your mouth may be the first place you notice the warning signs of diabetes.
Oral health symptoms of diabetes may include:
- Dry Mouth – Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, but it can also be a symptom of diabetes. Studies have found people with diabetes produce less saliva, leaving them feeling parched or extra thirsty. Because saliva protects your teeth, low saliva levels can lead to other oral health issues, including cavities.
- Gingivitis and Gum Disease – Gum disease can accelerate when blood sugar is not under control, which is often true of individuals with undiagnosed diabetes. If you notice your gums become inflamed and bleed often, it may be an early sign of gum disease, and it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your dentist.
- Problems with Tasting Food – If you notice a change in your ability to taste food, it may be an indication of a larger issue, including diabetes. If you have a persistent bad taste in your mouth, it’s important to see your dentist or doctor.
- Delayed Wound Healing – When blood sugar is not properly controlled, it can keep injuries from healing quickly and properly. If you have a cold sore, cut in your mouth, or any other issue in your mouth that you feel isn’t healing as it should, this could be a sign of diabetes and you should see your dentist.
- Increased Susceptibility to Infection – Diabetes affects your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection, including those inside of your mouth. One common infection among people with diabetes is a yeast infection called oral thrush (candidiasis), which looks like a white layer coating your tongue and the insides of your cheeks. If you think you have thrush or any other mouth infection, see your dentist right away.
- Tooth loss – Diabetes can lead to gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss in advanced cases. Studies show that total tooth loss is linked to diabetes in one of five cases.
- Early Tooth Eruption – For children with diabetes, teeth may erupt at an age earlier than is typical.
While diabetes can have significant implications on your health, including your oral health, the good news is there are several things you can do today to decrease your risk. At La Mesa HIlls Dentistry, we are here to be your partners in oral health, and we want to help you keep your mouth, and your entire body, healthy. Here are five things we suggest for maintaining your oral health:
- Practice a good daily oral care routine: Make sure to brush twice a day and floss your teeth daily.
- If you wear dentures, clean them each day.
- Avoid smoking.
- Control your blood sugar levels: Good blood sugar control will help your body fight any bacterial or fungal infections in your mouth and help relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes. To maintain healthy blood sugar levels, use your diabetes-related medications as directed, adopt a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise.
- See your dentist for regular checkups: Regular dental visits are important, and research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease.
By controlling your blood sugar, and brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly, you can greatly decrease the likelihood of developing diabetes-related mouth issues. You can actually lower your HbA1c (the lab test that shows your average level of blood sugar over the previous three months, and indicates how well you are controlling your diabetes) by practicing good oral hygiene and having regular professional cleanings done by your dentist. At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, we are here to help you maintain your oral health. If you are experiencing any issues such as the ones detailed here, we urge you to come in for a visit. Give us a call at (619) 469-2902 or click here to schedule a visit today!