The short answer is an unequivocal YES!
By Anna M Avola DMD, MS
How Common is Diabetes?
According to the CDC, more than 100 million Americans are living with some form of Diabetes. Type 1 and 2 diabetes account for 30.3 million or 9.4 percent of the population. The sad news is that the older you get the chances of developing this disease increases. Currently, 25 percent or 1 in 4 adults over 65 have Type 2 diabetes. If you have been diagnosed as prediabetic, left untreated, it will lead to Type 2 diabetes within 5 years. And keep in mind that diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in this country.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar or glucose is too high. Simply put, we need sugar for energy. As sugar enters our blood stream, it needs to be absorbed by our cells to be utilized as energy. In order to get the blood sugar out of the blood and into the cell, we need the hormone insulin which is developed in the pancreas. In some cases the pancreas does not produce any insulin at all (usually a type 1 diabetic). In other cases the pancreas just doesn’t produce enough to get the job done or your body stops responding to insulin resulting in an increase of glucose floating around in the bloodstream.
Over time this excess glucose can cause all sorts of health issues including: heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, nerve damage and dental disease!
How does diabetes affect my oral health?
Diabetes can cause many dental problems. Many diabetics experience dry mouth. For relief people often drink excessive fluids such as sodas or suck on candy. Since saliva protects your teeth, this can lead to a higher incidence in cavities. Dry mouth can also affect your ability to taste food. In turn you may be adding more sugar and salt to your diet.
Bleeding gums or gingivitis is another symptom of diabetes. As you brush and floss you may notice that your gums seem to bleed more easily. This may be the first sign of an even greater problem called periodontitis. As inflammation of the gums progress, it begins to involve the supporting structures of the teeth and can lead to bone loss and tooth loss.
Since diabetes affects your immune system, you are more vulnerable to infections. Oftentimes the first sign of these infections occur in the mouth. Common among diabetics is a yeast infection called thrush (candidiasis). It appears as a white coating on your cheeks and tongue and can leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Delayed wound healing is another condition diabetics must cope with. Poor control of blood sugar affects how quickly we can heal. Low resistance to immunity can often result in cold sores around the lips that just don’t seem to heal.
What Can I Do To Prevent Damage To My Teeth And Gums?
Here is the link! Research has shown that treating gum disease can actually aid in improving your control of blood sugar. Improving and maintaining oral health can actually improve how well you manage your diabetes! Here are several suggestions to help you:
• See your dentist and make sure you include diabetes on your health history
• Brush your teeth at least twice a day
• Floss your teeth at least once a day
• Schedule regular dental check ups
• Complete any dental work on broken teeth or fillings which can irritate your gums
• Watch for signs of gum disease (bleeding)
• Note any changes that may appear on your cheeks or tongue
• If you smoke, STOP. It will increase complications and loss of teeth.
• If you wear dentures or partials, clean them daily and have the dentist check them.
• Ask your dentist for mouth sprays or suggestions to relieve dry mouth.
Take your diabetes and your dental care seriously. Do all you can to control your blood sugar. A diet with essential fruits and vegetables is a must. If you don’t exercise, begin by walking every day. Good blood sugar control will help your body fight fungal and bacterial infections in your mouth. Remember only you can commit to manage your diabetes!
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