How Diabetes Affects Your Oral Health

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. That may sound like an unusual topic for a blog devoted to dental care and cosmetic dentistry to address, but it’s a fact that dentists are often the first health professionals to discover a patient may have diabetes. It is a “whole body” disease, with symptoms that can emerge in many parts of your body.  If you have diabetes, taking exceptionally good care of your mouth is a must, as is informing your dentist that you have the condition.


How Diabetes Can Affect Your Oral Health

  1. Diabetes can increase your risk of periodontal (gum) disease.  One common oral health-related symptom of diabetes is the thickening of the blood vessels in your mouth. Your blood supply has to work harder to nourish your gums and carry away waste products. Poorly controlled diabetes can leave your gum and bone tissue more prone to infection.
  2. High blood-sugar levels can boost your risk of tooth decay. Diabetes raises the sugar levels in your blood and your saliva, increasing the chances of bacterial plaque and tartar sticking to and causing damage to your teeth.
  3. Diabetes can increase your chances of contracting thrush or dry mouth. The sugar level in the saliva of diabetics can encourage the growth of thrush, a fungal infection impacting the tissues of the mouth. Dry mouth (low saliva flow) is common for many people who take prescription medications; in people with diabetes, it can encourage tooth decay, as well as mouth ulcers.

To minimize the impact of diabetes on your oral health, you should:

  • Brush twice daily and floss on a daily basis
  • Work with your physician to keep your blood sugar levels under control
  • Stop smoking – tobacco use accelerates many of the symptoms and conditions described in this post
  • Alert your dentist if your dentures do not fit properly or you feel gum soreness when you wear them

“You can protect your oral health if you have diabetes by understanding its impact on your teeth and gums, and by partnering with your dentist to limit its effects,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist practicing in central Phoenix and founder of Dr. Carol Ford & Associates.

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