By: Shoshana Davis
It comes as no surprise to a person with diabetes that having high blood sugar can have a huge impact on your entire body and how you feel. But did you know it can also cause many problems in your mouth? Your teeth and gums are heavily affected by the excess glucose in your system, and without proper preventative care, people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes can experience serious long-term damage to their mouths.
Here are some ways having diabetes can harm your mouth and what you can do to prevent these problems:
Thrush: This fancy six-letter word describes essentially a yeast infection in your mouth. There can be many reasons for it to occur, such as using a steroid-based inhaler. In people with diabetes, unfortunately, it’s a condition that’s very likely to pop up.
The high sugar levels in people with diabetes provide much better conditions for yeast to grow than in people without the disease. Additionally, the dry mouth common in people with diabetes, combined with the higher amount of glucose in their systems, make for a perfect environment for thrush to thrive.
To help prevent thrush from developing, it’s crucial to have good dental habits, such as brushing, flossing, and using mouth wash twice a day. If you begin to notice sores or white spots, check with your dental team immediately for treatment.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis: Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, in which plaque and tarter begin to form on your teeth and push your gums down. You’ll notice that your gums will begin to bleed and that you will have some discomfort. If gingivitis goes untreated, it can lead to periodontitis. This advanced gum disease can destroy the bone and soft tissues that hold your teeth up.
Dry Mouth: Everyone gets a little dry mouth here and there, but in people with diabetes it’s much more frequent. Dry mouth is essentially what the description says, a lack of saliva in your mouth. In addition to the excess sugar in your body, dry mouth can lead to all other types of problems, so it’s important to keep your saliva moving. One easy suggestion is to chew sugar-free gum, which helps your body produce saliva.
(Check with your doctor first since some people with diabetes have issues with gum. Also, if necessary, your physician can prescribe medications to help the condition.)
Since having diabetes increases the amount of sugar in your system, it can be very easy to develop an excess build up of it if you don’t keep your mouth clean. It’s important to practice good dental habits as well as visit your dentist regularly for a deep cleaning.
Make sure to let your dental team know that you have diabetes, so that it can help you keep your teeth clean in the most effective ways.
Shoshana Davis freelances for Top Dentists (www.topdentists.com), a dental health resource and consumer site.