An estimated 20 million people have diabetes, and according to recent studies, diabetics are more susceptible to the development of oral infections and periodontal (gum) disease than those who do not have diabetes. In addition, diabetics who suffer from oral infections and gum disease often deal with it in higher severity than others – especially if they are struggling with maintaining their insulin levels.
So how exactly are gum disease and diabetes related? Diabetes reduces the body’s ability to fight against infection, which makes the gums more vulnerable to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria in plaque. If diabetics do not attend their dentist appointments on a consistent biannual basis, this gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease and become more severe.
Other issues diabetics may experience in regards to oral health include burning mouth syndrome and fungal infections like thrush and oral candidiasis. Dry mouth, or a reduction of saliva production in the mouth, can also result, which contributes to increased amounts of tooth decay. To prevent problems with your oral health, your dentist may prescribe you an antibiotic, more frequent dental visits, or a medicated mouth wash.
If diabetic patients are having problems managing their insulin levels, they should consult with both their dentist and their physician before receiving elective dental care. Dental procedures should be as short and as stress free as possible, and dental appointments should be made first thing in the morning when blood sugar levels are better under control. Diabetic patients should make both their dental and other medical care providers aware of their medical history and periodontal status.
If you have diabetes and have more questions about gum disease and receiving other dental care, talk to your doctor and your dental care provider. Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy mouth. As you brush twice and floss once daily, make and keep your dental hygiene appointments, and keep your blood sugar levels under control, you can maintain your oral health and avoid gum disease.