If you have diabetes, you are already burdened by so many extra things to do. You have to test your blood sugar levels, take medicine or insulin, and be very careful about what you eat. That’s because diabetes has far-reaching effects on your body. But did you know it can impact your dental health as well? Here’s how diabetes can complicate your dental health.
- Gingivitis: This is the early stage of gum disease. The harmful bacteria that cause tooth decay can irritate your gums. This causes them to get red, sore, swollen, and tender. You might even bleed when you brush and floss. If your diabetes is uncontrolled and your blood sugar is too high, your immune system can’t fight off disease like it should
- Periodontitis: Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, but periodontitis is the advanced stage. Here, the harmful bacteria have gotten inside the gums, not just on the outside. This infection cannot be removed in anyone. Since high blood sugar can interfere with your immune system, such an infection becomes a more serious problem with diabetics. Your chances of losing teeth to gum disease are that much higher.
- Thrush: This is an uncommon but serious fungal infection in your mouth. If you are diabetic and need to take antibiotics, a side effect is often an increase in sugar levels. This causes your mouth to produce more saliva. A hot, wet mouth is the perfect environment for a fungal infection. You know you have thrush when you have a painful burning sensation on your tongue and the inside of your mouth.
- Dry mouth: Everyone reacts a bit differently to diabetes. Where one person could have way too much saliva and be at risk for thrush, another person could have too little saliva and suffer from dry mouth. Not only does this make it harder to eat and talk, saliva helps wash away food particles that get stuck to your teeth and gums after eating. When your mouth is dry, more particles remain for harmful bacteria to feed off of.
- Slower healing: If you’re diabetic, you know how it takes longer for cuts and bruises to heal. All of that sugar in your blood makes it harder for your body to heal normally. If you get a wound to your gums, or if you have a surgical procedure like a dental implant, it’s going to take much longer for your mouth and gums to get back to normal.
Is there anything you can do? Definitely.
Here are some tips to help you avoid the dental complications brought on by diabetes and high blood sugar.
- Use alcohol-free rinses: If dry mouth is a problem, or you want to fight the harmful bacteria in your mouth, rinses and mouthwashes can help. But alcohol actually dries out your mouth. Make sure you purchase ones that are alcohol-free or you could be making your dry mouth problem worse.
- Use a soft-bristled brush: For people without diabetes, a hard-bristled brush is just not necessary. It won’t get your teeth more clean than a soft-bristled one. It can even cause a small amount of damage to your gums and enamel. If you have diabetes, your body is already slow to heal. Using a hard-bristled brush can hurt your gums and increase your chances of getting gingivitis.
- Brush and floss: Everyone should be taking care of their teeth like this, but if you have diabetes, you really need to make sure you are doing it right. Brush after meals and make sure you floss at least once each day. This will help keep food particles from collecting in your mouth, which will decrease your risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Since both are bigger problems when you’re blood sugar is high, this is especially important when you have diabetes.
- Visit our office for regular cleanings and exams: Along the same lines, make sure you are not skipping your dental visits every six months. Because you are at a higher risk for dental problems, we need to see you in our Honolulu, HI dental office like clockwork. This way, our team can spot any problems early.
- If you have traditional dentures, clean them every night: If you have full dentures, you might be tempted to leave them in overnight because it’s easier. That’s never a good idea, but if you have diabetes, it’s worse. You can be irritating your gums which increases your chances at gum disease. Take them out and clean them each night.