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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Diabetes and Dental Health Connection

diabetes and dental health

If you follow our Brighter blog, you have probably read other posts concerning the correlation between good dental health and overall health concerns. As more research is done linking these two schools of medicine, this theory is becoming harder and harder to ignore.

Case in point, diabetes and dental health. Unlike other health concerns, this connection is so fascinating because now it seems, both dental health and diabetes can greatly affect each other, instead of solely being a one-way street.

Defining Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease affecting the body’s capability to process sugar properly. The high-blood sugar levels that result can cause problems in the eyes, kidneys, heart, and more specifically, the mouth. Diabetes can also create elevated levels of glucose in the blood – and abnormalities of fat, carbohydrates, and protein metabolism.

Blood vessel changes also occur with diabetes, making them thicker. The thickened vessels can then slow down the flow of nutrients and removal of waste from other body tissue. In turn, the impaired bloodflow then weakens the gums and bone, making them more susceptible to infection. As a direct result, if diabetes is not controlled properly, higher glucose levels in the mouth can spur on the bacteria that causes gum disease.

Link Between Diabetes and Dental Health

If you have diabetes, greater risks of oral health problems are always a concern. A number of disorders and diseases are associated with diabetes, including the most common – periodontitis (also known as gum disease). Periodontitis can lead to chewing difficulties, toothaches, and even tooth loss.

The link between dental health and diabetes is simple – high blood sugar. Poorly controlled diabetes weakens the body’s white blood cells (the body’s main infection defense), infections in the mouth can then occur more often. Studies have proven that diabetes control will protect against oral health problems.

Recent research concerning gum disease even suggests that the correlation between gum disease and diabetes is mutual. Because of a reduced resistance and a slower healing process, gum disease appears more frequently among diabetes sufferers. The opposite is also true, treating gum disease in diabetic patients improves blood sugar control.

Other Dental Concerns

In addition to periodontal disease, a variety of other mouth-related issues can arise because of diabetes. Here is an abbreviated list:

    • Gingivitis (gum inflammation) – The thickening of blood vessels associated with diabetes can decrease the body’s ability to fight infections. Patients with diabetes can experience more severe forms of gingivitis, which can then lead to gum disease.

    • Dry mouth – Diabetes can decrease saliva flow, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth can complicate issues by leading to ulcers, other infections, and tooth decay.

    • Thrush – Diabetics who take antibiotics to fight infection are prone to this fungal infection of the mouth and tongue. The fungus itself thrives on the high-glucose levels in the saliva of diabetics.

    • Oral tissue issues – Patients with diabetes tend not to heal as quickly after oral surgery, because their blood flow can be damaged.

    • Cavities – There appears to be varying opinions on the matter. One side interprets the existence of high-glucose levels in the saliva allowing bacteria to flourish, which can lead to cavities. In addition, diabetics tend to eat more frequent meals, which increases bacteria, and in turn, the chance for cavities to develop.

While the other side thinks diabetics are more well versed in what to eat, and they more closely monitor their sugar levels. All of which reduces the chances of eating foods containing sugar.In the end, good dental hygiene and quality blood-sugar control are the best ways to protect against cavities and periodontitis.

Be on the Lookout

Diabetics should also be on the lookout for more symptoms, which can lead to serious dental health issues, including:

      • Sticky, dry mouth

      • Dry lips

      • Sense of burning in the mouth

      • Tough tongue

      • Mouth sores or infection

In order to better control dental health, diabetics should keep the following in mind and practice them as much as possible.

      • Drink water or sugarless fluids

      • Avoid caffeine

      • Avoid spicy or salty foods

      • Avoid alcohol and tobacco

Of course, nothing beats good dental hygiene in order to stave of oral infection or other serious dental issues. Brushing and flossing daily, regular dental appointments, and blood glucose control are still the best way to fight the dental complications of diabetes.