People with diabetes are at greater risk for certain oral problems. Gingivitis, and its more advanced stage called periodontitis, is a real concern for diabetics. Gum disease is a condition in which your gum become irritated and inflamed, and can begin to pull away from your teeth. This creates pockets between your teeth and gums, which can fill with bacteria and deepen. Gum surgery may be required before the infection destroys the bones around your teeth, causing your teeth to loosen or fall out.
How are these diseases linked?
If your blood glucose levels aren’t controlled, you are at increased risk for developing gum disease and ultimately losing teeth. And, as with any type of infection in the body, gum disease may cause blood sugar to rise and make diabetes more difficult to control. So it’s really a two-way relationship between diabetes and gum disease; not only are diabetes patients more susceptible to severe gum disease, but advanced gum disease can affect blood sugar control and cause diabetes to worsen.
Is there increased risk for other oral problems too?
There are other oral conditions also associated with diabetes. Thrush, an infection resulting from a fungus growing in your mouth, may occur. Diabetics are also at higher risk for dry mouth, which can lead to soreness, infections, ulcers, and cavities.
How can the risks be reduced?
Proper oral care is the key to lowering your risk. This includes brushing and flossing regularly and thoroughly, and seeing your dentist for checkups at least twice a year. Controlling your blood glucose level is another important factor for avoiding gum disease, thrush, and dry mouth. Also, the risk of thrush decreases by quitting smoking and removing and cleaning your dentures daily.
What should I tell my dentist?
Be sure to inform your dentist and hygienist about your diabetes and medications you take. Your dentist will be prepared to treat your special needs and is trained in handling patients with diabetes. For example, routine dental procedures may be postponed if your blood glucose level is not controlled.