By: Jen Blackstock
Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes means a lot of change in your daily life. From blood glucose monitoring to watching what you eat to losing weight, it’s hard to keep track of the changes you need to make to keep diabetes under control. One aspect of diabetes care that sometimes falls through the cracks is oral health care, which, if ignored, can lead to serious health complications.
In a study by dLife and SoundView Research, Inc., 66 percent of active diabetes managers had not changed their oral care habits since being diagnosed, and over half had not even been advised by their dentist to take extra care to brush, floss, or rinse daily.
In the study, eight hundred people with diabetes were surveyed on what they considered to be good daily oral health care. In addition to the statistics above, 75 percent of the respondents believed their routines to be effective, even though 60 percent reported using floss and rinse less than once a day. More than 50 percent of the participants said they went to regular checkups and that their dentists were aware of their diabetes. Twenty percent believed a little bleeding when brushing was okay.
“The results of this study show the gulf that exists between perceptions and the connections between diabetes and oral health. Your dental health absolutely affects the control of your diabetes,” said Charles W. Martin, DDS, MAGD, DABOI/ID, DICOI, FIADFE. “Inflammation in the mouth coming from gum disease spreads to the whole body. This inflammation increases insulin resistance, cholesterol levels, and C-reactive protein levels. So, uncontrolled oral disease can be the hidden factor working against those trying to maintain good control over their diabetes.”
Although the mouth is commonly referred to as “the gateway to infection” in the body, many people still do not heed the warning that good oral care is one key to health among diabetics and non-diabetics alike. dLife outlined some of the risk of diabetes associated with poor oral care, such as mouth infections, especially periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease can damage the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place and may lead to painful chewing problems. This may result in loss of teeth and may also make it hard to control your blood glucose.
Diabetes may also cause xerostomia, or dry mouth, which happens when you don’t have enough saliva. Diabetes may also cause the glucose level in your saliva to increase. Together, these problems may lead to thrush, which causes painful white patches in your mouth.
Dr. Martin added that people with diabetes are more likely to have tooth decay problems, bone loss, tooth loss, and accelerated oral breakdown compared to those who do not have diabetes. “As healthcare providers, people look to us for guidance. We need to give it. Too few people with diabetes know the dire consequences that can befall them because of just not knowing.”