The Diabetes-Dental Connection

The Diabetes-Dental Work Connection: What you need to know

HealthDay Reporter Robert Preidt wrote in a recent issue of US News & World Report, that many adults with diabetes fail to see the dentist enough, which he notes is bad, since diabetic patients face increased risk of gum disease compared to healthier peers:

“Investigators analyzed data from just over 2.5 million American adults who took part in an annual federal government health survey. The survey results showed that people with diabetes or prediabetes were least likely to visit the dentist. The study included about 248,000 diabetics, 30,500 people with prediabetes and over 2.2 million without diabetes.”

This news is unfortunate because people who have diabetes run an increased risk for gum disease, which can negatively affect blood-sugar control and speed progression of the disease. What’s more, emerging research suggests that the relationship between serious gum disease and diabetes is two-way. In other words, not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease could negatively impact blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. 

The Surgeon General, in a report about oral health in America, says that people with diabetes are at higher risk for oral health problems, such as gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) and periodontitis (serious gum disease): 

“People with diabetes face an increased risk for serious gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums.” The report goes on to say that since good oral health is integral to general health, diabetic patients should be careful to brush and floss properly and see the dentist regularly.”

At Blue Ocean Dentistry, we concur. We see the diabetes-poor dental health connection and want to help our diabetic and pre-diabetic patients address issues associated with their teeth and gums. 

If you are pre-diabetic or have diabetes, heed these warning signs and contact your dentist right away if you notice: 

  • Your gums easily bleed
  • Gums seem to have pulled away from teeth  
  • Pus has formed between teeth and gums (which you might see if you press your gums)
  • Persistent bad breath 
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Permanent teeth are loose or appear to be separating
  • Your teeth fit together differently in your mouth than they used to
  • The fit of partial dentures or a splint has changed

Diabetic & Pre-Diabetic Risk Factors

If you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, your immune resistance is compromised. So, it will take longer than it used to for things to heal. Diabetes leads to slower-than-average healing times for teeth and gums, as well as the rest of the body. Maintaining consistent, healthy blood sugar levels with a well-balanced diet and managing good oral care at home are important, as are regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations. 

Dry Mouth

One of the risks associated with dental work and diabetes is bacterial colonization. Saliva helps wash away food particles and keeps the mouth moist. In patients who have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, saliva production is compromised. This condition, known as Xerostomia or Dry Mouth, is common to diabetic dental patients as well as anyone who is undergoing cancer therapy or taking certain types of medication. Constant dryness irritates soft tissue in the mouth, which can cause discomfort and increase your risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease. 

If you have dry mouth:

  • We may recommend the use of a saliva substitute or rinse with a fluoride treatment. 
  • You should chew sugarless gums and mints.
  • Drink plenty of water or suck on melting ice chips.

Additional Infections

Bacteria colonizes in the body as part of its natural defenses. However, these bacteria must be kept in check or they can proliferate and impede or defeat the body’s delicate system. Diabetic patients sometimes develop oral candidiasis, which is a fungal infection in the mouth. If you wear dentures, smoke, or have high blood sugar, you could also contract this condition or thrush. Another condition you might be at risk for is Lichen Planus, aka inflammatory skin disease. If you have this, the skin in your mouth could develop ulcers. But never fear; if you develop any of the above, Dr. Wong can diagnose and treat the condition. 

The key to keeping your mouth healthy is to develop good oral hygiene habits regardless of whether you have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

About Dr. Fred Wong of Blue Ocean Dentistry in Glendora, California

Dr. Fred Wong and the staff at Blue Ocean Dentistry use the latest available dental treatments, equipment, and materials – all of which make a marked difference in our patients’ experiences. We are committed to helping our patients achieve optimal dental health. We creatively combine dental science and artistry — which can literally redesign your smile. Since even a subtle change in your smile will help you to project self-confidence and high self-esteem, we love helping you feel good about yourself. We deliver the finest dental care at the most reasonable cost and accept most dental insurance plans as well as CareCredit. For more about the dental treatment plans we offer or to schedule an appointment, call today (626) 852-6999. 

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