Diabetes and Dental Care – Are You at Higher Risk?
While it is important for diabetics to take good care of their hearts and their bodies, those suffering from this chronic condition cannot afford to ignore their teeth.
Diabetes is a disease that can affect the whole body, including your mouth. Dental care is particularly important for people with diabetes because they face a higher than normal risk of oral health problems due to poorly controlled blood sugars. Whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, managing your blood sugar level is key. High blood glucose can cause problems with your teeth and gums. It is important for patients to work with your health care providers to keep their glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
What Dental Problems Are People with Diabetes at Higher Risk For?
People with diabetes face a higher risk of:
- Dry mouth. Dry mouth is a big problem for diabetics since the condition can decrease the flow of saliva needed to keep the inside of the mouth moist. Dry mouth can further lead to soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay.
- Gum inflammation (gingivitis and periodontitis). Besides impairing white blood cells, another complication of diabetes is that it causes blood vessels to thicken, which slows the flow of nutrients to and waste products from body tissues, including the mouth. This reduces the ability of the body to fight off infection, a serious problem for diabetics of all ages.
- Poor healing of oral tissues. People with uncontrolled diabetes do not heal quickly after oral surgery or other dental procedures because blood flow to the treatment site can be impaired.
- Burning mouth and/or tongue. Some diabetics may experience a burning sensation in their mouths and tongues. This problem can be a symptom of another common diabetic complication known as thrush, which is a fungal infection that can be brought on by the frequent use of antibiotics and complicated by high levels of sugar that result from uncontrolled diabetes.
Dental Care Tips for People with Diabetes
- Since people with diabetes are more prone to conditions that may harm their oral health, it’s essential to follow good dental care practices and to pay special attention to any changes in your oral health and to seek a prompt dental consultation if such changes occur.
- Keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible.
- At each dental care visit, tell your dentist about the status of your diabetes, and if you take insulin, when you took your most recent dose. Also, always remember to tell your dentist about any changes to your overall health and wellness.
- If you have dry mouth, try a mouthwash without alcohol.
- See your diabetes doctor before scheduling treatment for periodontal disease, or any invasive dental procedure such as oral surgery. You may wish to consider having your doctor talk to or consult with your dentist about your overall medical condition prior to any dental treatment being performed. This is especially true if oral surgery is planned. Your doctor or dentist will tell you if you may need to adjust your diabetes medications, meal schedule, or timing and dosage of your insulin, if you take it, prior to any procedure being performed. Always remember to bring your dentist a list of all the names and dosages of all medications you are taking.
- Keep in mind that healing may take longer in people with diabetes. Follow your dentist’s post-treatment instructions closely.
Diabetics need to know that their condition puts them at greater risk of many common dental problems, and it is important to be on the lookout for signs of dental problems. Brushing and flossing on a regular basis is one of the best ways to head off problems before they start.
You can prevent dental problems associated with diabetes by first and foremost controlling your blood glucose levels. Take good care of your teeth and gums, and have regular checkups every six months. Although a diabetic may not necessarily be more prone to infection than a non-diabetic, once an infection develops it tends to be more severe and lasts a longer period of time.
Managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment, and that includes proper dental care. Your efforts will be rewarded with a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Call your dentist or orthodontist today to schedule a consultation for your specific dental needs.