Oral health is a reflection of one’s overall well-being, and its significance goes beyond having strong teeth and a healthy smile. In recent years, research has revealed a compelling link between diabetes and oral health. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, affecting millions worldwide. However, poor oral health can contribute to the aggravation of diabetes-related oral health complications. Therefore, maintaining good oral health, particularly for individuals living with diabetes is of utmost importance.
This blog takes a detailed dig on how diabetes and oral health are co-related, including their signs and symptoms, and eventually how a diabetic patient can maintain optimum oral health.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Diabetes
Individuals with diabetes are more susceptible to various oral health issues, such as gum disease (periodontitis), dry mouth (xerostomia), thrush, and impaired wound healing, as per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease, is a common oral health problem that individuals with diabetes are more prone to develop. The connection lies in the body’s response to infection. Diabetes compromises the body’s ability to resist infections, including those in the mouth. Elevated blood sugar levels create an ideal environment for harmful bacteria to thrive, leading to inflammation and infection in the gums. In turn, this inflammation can negatively impact diabetes management by making it more difficult to control blood sugar levels.
Dry mouth or Xerostomia is another oral health concern commonly experienced by people who are diabetic. In Xerostomia, diabetes affects salivary gland function, leading to decreased saliva production and saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health by helping to neutralize acids, wash away food particles, and prevent bacterial overgrowth. Therefore without sufficient saliva, the risk of cavities and gum disease increases significantly.
In addition, individuals with diabetes are also known to experience delayed wound healing. Oral wounds, such as those resulting from tooth extractions or dental procedures, may take longer to heal in diabetic patients. Oral health issues like gum disease can lead to chronic infections that may hinder the body’s wound-healing ability. Therefore, it can be particularly concerning for diabetic patients, as poorly managed infections can lead to more complex health complications.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes-Related Oral Health Problems
Here are some common signs and symptoms of oral health problems that stem from diabetes, and individuals with diabetes should be aware of
- Gums that bleed easily, especially during brushing or flossing, can indicate the presence of gum disease. This symptom should not be ignored, especially for individuals with diabetes.
- Inflammation and tenderness in the gums can be a sign of gum disease. Gums that appear red or swollen should be provided immediate care and attention by a dental professional.
- Chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be a result of poor oral hygiene or an underlying oral health issue such as gum disease or dry mouth. Constant dryness in the mouth, along with discomfort and difficulty in swallowing, may indicate reduced saliva production due to diabetes.
- The presence of white patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, or other areas of the mouth may signal the presence of a fungal infection. Several studies reveal that high blood sugar levels can promote the overgrowth of yeast, leading to a fungal infection that affects the mouth and throat. It is known as Thrush, and the symptoms include discomfort, and difficulty eating besides white patches on the tongue.
- Gum disease can lead to the weakening of the supporting structures of the teeth, causing them to become loose or shift in position.
- Some individuals with diabetes may experience changes in their sense of taste or a persistent metallic taste in the mouth.
Preventive Measures and Tips for Diabetes-Related Oral Health Problems
- Maintain consistent oral hygiene which includes regular brushing and flossing. Although these are essential for everyone, they are even more critical for individuals with diabetes. Good oral hygiene can help prevent gum disease and other oral health issues.
- Proper diabetes management can help mitigate the negative impact of diabetes on oral health. So, control your blood sugar levels. Keeping blood sugar levels close to normal can reduce the risk of oral health problems. The normal blood sugar levels are 70 to 130 mg/dL before meals and less than 180 mg/dL after meals, as per the American Diabetes Association.
- Routine dental visits allow for early detection and treatment of oral health issues. Dentists can identify potential problems and guide on maintaining oral health.
- Drinking plenty of water can help alleviate dry mouth and promote saliva production.
- Smoking can worsen oral health problems and accelerate diabetes complications. Therefore, quitting smoking can have a positive impact on both conditions.
The Final Mantra To Manage Diabetes-Related Oral Health Complications
Poor oral health can complicate diabetes management and contribute to overall health challenges. But, early detection of diabetes-related oral health problems can aid in effective management and prevention of complications. So, prioritize regular dental checkups and let the collaborative efforts of our highly-experienced team at NextCare Dental and medical advances play a pivotal role in enhancing the well-being of individuals living with diabetes.