Diabetes is a health condition that affects many areas of the body including the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes. Because people with diabetes have a lower resistance to infection, they may be more susceptible to periodontal disease and other oral complications. Learning more about diabetes and dental treatment is essential to maintaining good oral health.
The American Diabetes Association reports that patients who experience high blood glucose levels over time may triple their risk for developing gum disease. Below are five questions diabetics might have about how their oral health can be impacted if their condition is left untreated.
1. Is Dry Mouth a Symptom of Diabetes?
People with diabetes produce less saliva, which can cause an oral condition called dry mouth. To help prevent dry mouth:
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol
- Chew sugar-free gum
- Drink plenty of water
2. Can Diabetes Cause Thrush?
If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop thrush (oral candidiasis) Thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth. You may have thrush if you notice painful white or red patches inside your mouth. To prevent fungal infection, monitor your blood glucose levels and practice good dental habits.
3. Do Cold Sores Heal Poorly in People With Diabetes?
Do cold sores in your mouth heal slowly? Diabetes can cause mouth injuries to heal slowly or not at all. Keeping your blood sugar levels in check will help to heal mouth sores and cuts. Tell your dentist if you have a cold sore that doesn't heal.
4. Can Diabetes Make Gum Disease More Difficult to Treat?
Diabetes can make it difficult for the body to fight an infection like gum disease. Untreated, high blood glucose levels can create a condition where bacteria will thrive which results in tissue damage and tooth loss. Tell your dentist if you notice your gums bleeding, pus between the gums and teeth, receding gumline or bad breath.
5. Does Having Diabetes Change Food Taste and Preference?
People with diabetes may find that their favorite foods do not taste as flavorful as before. Diabetes can cause your food preferences to change. Contact your dentist if you notice a persistent bad taste in your mouth.
At-home Dental Care Tips for People with Diabetes
Visiting a physician for diabetes care, monitoring your blood glucose levels, and practicing good oral hygiene are important to maintain good oral health. Below are tips for maintaining your dental health at home.
- Take your diabetes medications as directed
- To prevent gum disease, brush your teeth two times a day, for at least two minutes, with a soft-bristled brush
- Floss your teeth once a day
- Avoid using tobacco. Smoking and smokeless tobacco can harm your oral health
- Do not wear dentures to bed – remove and soak them in a container filled with water
- Clean dentures and any removable oral appliances daily
- Use a tongue cleaner to remove bacteria on the tongue
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise daily
- Control your blood glucose levels, particularly before dental appointments involving surgery or treatment that may cause bleeding -- if your blood glucose is poorly controlled, inform your physician and your dentist
Talk with your dentist about how diabetes can affect your oral health. By monitoring your blood sugar, caring for your teeth and gums, and visiting your dentist regularly, you can prevent oral complications and keep a bright, healthy smile for years to come.