Living with diabetes series

Oral Health and Diabetes

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Living with type 2 diabetes brings with it a host of other health problems. Diabetes can cause eye damage, kidney damage, nerve damage or neuropathy, heart health issues — in fact, every part of the body is at risk for diabetes complications. Because it weakens the immune system, it reduces resistance to infection while slowing down the healing and recovery.

Among diabetes complications, dental health or oral health is also a major cause for concern.

Some of the complications related to oral health and diabetes are

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease or periodontal disease
  • Salivary gland malfunctioning
  • Fungal infections
  • Inflammatory skin disease
  • Infections and delay in healing
  • Problem with identifying taste

Because of these issues, make sure your medical records are always updated and current. If a trip to the dentist is scheduled, do let your dentist be aware of the following before starting treatment:

  • If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, tell the doctor.
  • Let the doctor know whether your diabetes is under control
  • Talk about your medical history and what has changed since the diagnosis
  • A list of your prescription medications and any other medication you are taking, even if it is over the counter.

What about the effect of your diet in relation to oral health and diabetes?

When diabetes is not controlled effectively, the high glucose levels in your saliva encourage bacteria to flourish. You can minimize this by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day to ensure there is no plaque buildup between the teeth. This delays tooth decay and plaque formation.

If plaque is allowed to develop, it hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar above the gum line can be very hard to remove by just brushing. When ignored, it can cause chronic inflammation and mouth infections.

Diabetes is a condition where healing is slow, and it also reduces the body’s ability to fight infections, placing the gum tissue at risk. When the gums and bones that hold the teeth in place are infected from gum disease, you must seek treatment immediately.

Gum disease usually develops when blood sugar levels are not controlled and can flare up frequently, each time a little more severe, resulting in loss of teeth.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and notice any of the following, make an appointment with your dentist immediately:

  • Gums that bleed easily and often
  • Gums that are red, swollen, or tender
  • Gums that appear loosened from the teeth
  • Infection or pus formation between the teeth and gums where the gums hold the teeth
  • Stinky breath or a bad taste in the mouth that won’t go away
  • When permanent teeth that appear to be loosening or separating
  • Unusual changes where your bite doesn’t appear normal
  • Problem with the way your dentures fit

Besides the above, fungal infections are also common with oral health and diabetes. We all know that bacteria, viruses, and fungi live in the mouth.

In those with normal blood sugar, the body defends against these, together with regular oral hygiene, keeping them from causing problems. Sometimes, they can grow and multiply, resisting the body’s defense and causing fungal infections.

However, in those with diabetics, this is likely to happen more often especially if they wear dentures.

If you smoke, have high blood sugar, or need treatment involving antibiotics often, fungal infections in the mouth are likely.

Also, reduced saliva production and the rise in salivary glucose becomes an environment for fungus growth causing thrush. This produces white or red patches in the mouth that become sore or turn into ulcers. Sometimes it affects the tongue, resulting in pain and a burning sensation, making it tough to swallow and interfering with taste identification. You may need to take prescription medication to treat this. It is important to remember that good oral hygiene is a must.

How to look after your oral health when you have diabetes?

You know what they say about prevention being better than a cure. This adage applies to oral health and diabetes It means doing the following:

  • Get your teeth professionally cleaned regularly to check gum disease and other oral health issues
  • Make regular visits to the dentist to assess overall dental health so that any problems may be treated early
  • Use the right oral care products or ask your dentist to recommend what you need.
  • Brush twice daily. Floss once. Use a mouth rinse to control gum disease.
  • Be alert to any signs or symptoms of problems and if you notice something, tell your doctor.
  • Keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Follow a healthy diet and other lifestyle suggestions from your doctor.

When you take care of yourself and your oral health, you can keep smiling!

In a majority of people diagnosed with diabetes, the main problem is the lack of diabetes education. The Living with Type-2 Diabetes series will cover various aspects of the condition with tips and suggestions to manage it better.

In this series so far:

The ABCs of Diabetes
Blood Pressure and Living with Diabetes
Does Dessert Have a Place in the Diabetes Diet
The Cholesterol-Diabetes Connection
The Diabetes Diet and Living with Type 2 Diabetes
Let’s Bust 10 Diabetes Diet Myths!
Why is Exercise Important in Diabetes?
Why Footcare Plays A Crucial Role in Managing Diabetes
What is the Glycemic Index?
Diabetic Neuropathy — What You Should Know

Disclaimer: The information in this post is purely for educational purposes only and does not substitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your physician for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.

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I love Medium and the wonderful writers I engage with. One of the reasons I write is to support underprivileged children. Currently, the Medium Partner Program is not open to writers based in India. Would you consider buying me a cup of coffee? Thank you so much!

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Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles

Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles

Writing about Self Improvement, Mindfulness, Meditation, Parenting, Health, Travel, Life, Books. Showing my diabetes who’s boss. Visit: https://vidyasury.com