Oral Health and Diabetes

Oral_HealthNovember is American Diabetes Month. This disease, which impacts the body’s ability to produce insulin, is on the rise in the United States. It is believed that 30 million Americans have diabetes, and another 86 million have pre-diabetic conditions. One out of every 10 healthcare dollars is spent treating diabetes and its complications; the average medical expenditure among people with diabetes is 2.3 times higher than those without the disease.

Oral health is intimately related to the course and progression of diabetes. Dentists play a key role in keeping people who have diabetes healthy.

How diabetes impacts your oral health

When a person has diabetes, their pancreas either will not create insulin on its own, or does not produce enough of this hormone to accommodate the body’s needs. Insulin plays a key role in the allowing the body to use sugar (glucose) for energy or to store glucose for future use.

Symptoms of diabetes can include:

  • Frequent urination.
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Increased hunger.
  • Weight loss.
  • Tiredness.
  • Lack of interest and concentration.
  • A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet.
  • Blurred vision.

People with poorly controlled diabetes are more susceptible to dental problems that include bleeding/sore gums and bad breath. They are more likely to have infections of their gums and the bones that hold the teeth in place, because diabetes can reduce the blood supply to the gums.

There is a well-documented link between uncontrolled diabetes and the worsening of gum disease, and there is mounting evidence that gum disease in someone with diabetes makes blood sugar harder to control. Dry mouth, which can be caused by certain medications or from hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) also creates problems for diabetics, because the decrease in saliva can cause an increase in tooth-decaying bacteria and plaque buildup.

Add your dentist to your diabetic care team

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, tell your dentist about it when you come for a check up or other dental work. Maintaining good oral health habits is particularly important for diabetics, as it reduces the chances for inflammation and infection to cause trouble. Eating in a way that keeps blood sugar under control also helps teeth and gums stay healthy, because the consumption of sugary and sticky carbohydrate-laden foods are typically reduced.

“Diabetes is a serious, but manageable, chronic disease,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist in practice in central Phoenix. “Your dentist needs to play an active part in helping you take care of this condition.”



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