November is American Diabetes Month, a time when we focus on the importance of diabetes education and awareness. Diabetes is a disease that affects millions of Americans each year. It can cause serious health problems if it isn’t treated properly. This year, we would also like to highlight the relationship between oral health and diabetes. Oral health is also important, and people with diabetes are at risk for developing certain oral health conditions. In this blog post, we will discuss the relationship between diabetes and oral health in more detail.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is the main type of sugar found in blood and is your body’s main source of energy. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation.
There are two main types of diabetes: type I and type II:
1. Type I diabetes is usually diagnosed in children or young adults. It occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin.
2. Type II diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. It usually develops in adulthood, but it can also develop in children and teens. With type II diabetes, the body doesn’t use insulin properly or doesn’t make enough insulin.
Diabetes can cause a number of different symptoms. Some people with diabetes may experience no symptoms at all. Other common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Weight loss
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Blurry vision
Oral Health and Diabetes
Diabetes can affect your oral health in a few different ways. For starters, people with diabetes are more likely to develop infections in general, as well as those that affect the gums and teeth. Additionally, elevated blood sugar levels can affect the body in a variety of ways and the mouth is no exception. Here are some of the oral health complications that can occur as a result of diabetes:
Gum disease is an infection of the gums that can lead to tooth loss. Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. Plaque can harden and turn into tartar, which is harder to remove. If plaque and tartar are not removed, they can damage the gums and bone that support the teeth. Gum disease is more common in people with diabetes because high blood sugar levels make it easier for bacteria to grow. This is because the bacteria responsible for gum disease feed off of sugars.
Tooth decay is another oral health problem that can be caused by diabetes. Tooth decay happens when plaque and tartar build up on the teeth and provide a place for bacteria to reside. These bacteria then feed on sugar and produce an acidic waste product that damages the enamel, or the hard outer layer of the teeth. As the enamel is weakened by bacteria, it is more likely for tooth decay to occur.
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a condition that can occur when there is not enough saliva in the mouth. Saliva is important because it helps to protect the teeth from decay and infection. It also helps to break down food so that you can swallow and digest it more easily. People with diabetes are more likely to experience dry mouth because high blood sugar levels can cause the salivary glands to produce less saliva. Additionally, certain medications used to manage diabetes can also lead to dry mouth or make existing dry mouth worse.
Oral thrush is a fungal infection that can occur in the mouth. It is more common in people with diabetes because high blood sugar levels make it easier for the fungus to grow. Oral thrush usually appears as white, creamy patches on the tongue or inside of the cheeks. It can also cause cracked lips, soreness, or burning in the mouth.
Sores or Lesions in the Mouth
Diabetes can also cause sores or lesions in the mouth. These sores are usually red, painful, and may bleed easily. They can occur on the gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, or inside of the cheeks. Sores or lesions in the mouth are more common in people with diabetes because high blood sugar levels can weaken the immune system and make it difficult for the body to fight off infection. Dry mouth can also play a role.
People with diabetes may also experience delayed healing. This is because high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves, which can interfere with the body’s ability to heal. Additionally, diabetes can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection. As a result, people with diabetes may experience slow healing from gum disease, as well as from dental procedures such as extractions, gum grafts, or dental implants.
Preventing Oral Health Complications
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to prevent these oral health problems from occurring.
- First and foremost, it is important to control your diabetes by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Simply watching your sugar levels will decrease the risk of developing oral health complications.
- You should also brush and floss your teeth daily and visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings. While most people see the dentist every six months, people with diabetes may benefit from more frequent visits. Talk to your dentist to determine if this is the case.
- If you have a dry mouth, drink plenty of water and avoid tobacco products. Additionally, there are special toothpastes and mouthwashes that can help to relieve dry mouth.
American Diabetes Month is a time to focus on diabetes education and awareness. It’s also a good time to focus on your oral health and make sure you are doing everything you can to prevent oral health problems. In this blog post, we have discussed the relationship between diabetes and oral health. We have also listed some of the most common oral health problems associated with diabetes, as well as how to prevent them. By taking these steps, you can help keep your mouth healthy and reduce your risk for oral health problems.