Over 37 million Americans are currently living with diabetes. Every year, approximately 1.5 million people are diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and 14% of new diagnoses are people under 20 years old. This chronic metabolic disorder leads to high blood sugar levels due to inadequate or impaired insulin production. Besides its impact on overall health, diabetes also poses significant risks to oral health. We will explore how diabetes affects the mouth and provide helpful tips for maintaining a healthy smile while living with diabetes.
Your Mouth with Diabetes
Diabetes impacts oral health in various ways, including:
- Dry Mouth: People with diabetes typically produce less saliva than the average person, which typically results in dry mouth. Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable, but it can also increase a patient’s risk of tooth decay, demineralization of teeth, tooth sensitivity, and oral infections.
- Gum Problems: Diabetes increases the amount of glucose in saliva, causing more bacterial growth and plaque build-up. Significant plaque build-up can irritate the gums and contribute to gum disease.
- Changes in Taste: Parageusia is a taste disorder that is common among diabetics. It is characterized by a persistent metallic taste in the mouth, resulting from injury or damage to the central nervous system. Parageusia can impair a patient’s ability to taste foods and drinks. Alternatively, patients may develop a metallic taste in the mouth as a side effect of their type 2 diabetes medication.
- Higher Risk of Infection: High blood sugar levels can weaken the immune system. Therefore, diabetics are more susceptible to small sores or cuts in the mouth becoming infected.
- Early Tooth Eruption: Children with diabetes tend to erupt their permanent teeth sooner than their peers. Early eruption of permanent teeth often causes crowding due to inadequate space in the mouth.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
For patients without diabetes, good oral hygiene is generally sufficient to keep oral bacteria at healthy levels. However, diabetics often face additional challenges in maintaining a healthy oral bacteria balance. Prolonged periods of less-than-ideal diabetes glucose levels can triple the risk of gum disease. Nearly 22% of all people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes also have gum disease. Gum disease is an extremely destructive disease that can cause receding gums, bad breath, gum sensitivity, systematic health complications, and tooth loss if not treated. Furthermore, gum disease can cause blood sugar to climb, making it even harder for patients to manage diabetes.
Work with Your Dentist to Manage Oral Health
Regular dental care should be a priority for patients with diabetes. Treating gum disease can improve blood sugar control and slow down its progression. Furthermore, research has shown that deep dental cleanings can reduce HbA1c for patients with type 2 diabetes. Your dentist can work with you to figure out how often you should receive cleanings and checkups to maintain oral health.
Tips to Keep Your Mouth Healthy with Diabetes
- Take your diabetes medication as directed to control blood sugar levels
- Eat healthy diet and exercise regularly
- Do not use tobacco products
- Thoroughly clean dentures or removeable bridges daily
- Maintain a thorough oral hygiene routine that includes brushing twice and flossing once daily
We want to help you maintain the healthiest mouth possible. Schedule an exam today, and our qualified staff will work with you to create a treatment plan that promotes oral health and overall well-being. Together, we can ensure your smile remains bright and healthy while living with diabetes.