Diabetes is a condition that millions of Americans are living with every single day. There are millions of new cases diagnosed every year, and this disease may also cause problems orally for the person that is diagnosed. It’s not the first thing people think of when they are diagnosed with diabetes, but it is a very real problem that can result from diabetes if it’s not controlled properly. Some of the problems that people may experience with their oral health after being diagnosed as diabetic include tooth decay, periodontal disease, salivary gland dysfunction, fungal infections, inflammatory skin reactions, infection/delayed healing, and tasting impairment can name a few conditions that you may experience.
Diet & Tooth Decay:
When diabetes is not controlled properly there will be higher levels of glucose in the saliva that will help bacteria thrive more than they would if there wasn’t this level of glucose present. Ensuring that you are brushing 2x per day with a fluoride-based toothpaste and flossing at least 1x per day will help remove plaque that comes from this glucose and can help limit the problems you experience dentally. If you do not remove this plaque it will eventually harden and turn into tartar which is much harder to remove from the mouth than the plaque before would have been to remove. Diabetes is a resistance to the body getting infections, so the most advanced stages of tooth decay from diabetes can result in periodontal disease and eventually a corroding of the bone structure under the teeth which can result in the loss of the teeth.
However, the good news is that most people who have control of their diabetes will not have these problems. It’s when the blood sugar constantly spikes and leaves the glucose in the saliva for extended periods of time, and there are poor oral hygiene habits that this problem is the most prevalent. If you notice any of the following symptoms see your dentist immediately: gums that are bleeding easily, red/swollen/tender gum, gums peeling back from teeth, pus between teeth/along gum line, persistent bad breath, permanent teeth that are lose/separating, any change in the way your teeth fit together when biting/chewing, and any change in the fit of partial dentures.
While some bacteria and fungi naturally occur in the mouth, the body has a natural defense that keeps the amount of these various bacteria in check. Conditions like diabetes, however, can inhibit the body’s ability to control such bacteria or keep them in check. Individuals with diabetes often have something called oral candidiasis which is a condition where fungal infections appear in the mouth. Smoking while having diabetes is again likely to increase the level of bacteria in the mouth making it more likely a fungal infection can start.
Diminished saliva flow in the mouth (dry mouth) can also play a role in how many bacteria can grow in there as well. The most common condition you can develop is thrush, which is a red, scaly, patchy type of fungus that grows in the mouth and causes difficulty swallowing, and can even compromise your ability to taste foods you are eating.
Caring for Your Teeth:
Preventative oral care including regular cleanings at the dentist office can help ensure that you are not getting a fungal infection in your mouth. This way you can treat your initial fungal issues before they grow into full-blown oral health problems. Watch for signs and symptoms of any issues, and your dentist immediately if you notice anything different in your oral health patterns.
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