Patients who have diabetes can suffer from or be more susceptible to some dental health conditions than non-diabetic patients due to some of the symptoms of the disease. It is important for diabetics to be aware of these conditions and take preventative measures. Keeping a daily dental care routine and regularly visiting the dentist are two of the best ways to keep on top of your dental health.
Dental Conditions Caused by Diabetes
Certain diabetic medications can cause a decrease in an individual’s saliva production, which leads to dry mouth. This condition can be uncomfortable, as your tongue feels swollen and it is difficult to swallow. More importantly, a dry mouth is the ideal place for bacteria to thrive. Normal saliva production protects your teeth and gums from bacteria and infection, but without it, your mouth is vulnerable.
A diabetic patient is therefore at more of a risk of developing cavities. These small holes are created when plaque builds up on our teeth. Plaque, a colourless film, is formed out of food debris, acids, bacteria and saliva. The bacteria in plaque then creates acids that eat into the enamel of a tooth, creating a hole. If left untreated, inside the cavity, bacteria causes further decay and infection, which can spread to the gums.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is a bacterial infection of the gums. There are various stages of gum disease that affects different parts of the mouth. The first and earliest stage is Gingivitis; symptoms of which include the inflammation and bleeding of the gums. Later stages of gum disease cause the gums to recede, exposing tooth roots and causing tooth sensitivity. In the final stages, gum disease can result in tooth and even bone loss.
Due to the various other symptoms of diabetes, patients may also experience difficulty tasting their food; wounds and raw spots caused by gum disease will take longer than the average person to heal; and since they are more susceptible to infection because of dry mouth, the gum disease may spread faster and develop quicker than non-diabetic patients.
How Gum Disease can affect your Diabetes
Once a diabetic patient has developed gum disease, it is extremely important to see a dentist and their doctor immediately to begin treatment. Early treatment and the further prevention of gum disease is vital to stopping the fast development of the disease.
Preventing further decay and infection will not only save your dental health, but could save your life. One of the symptoms of gum disease can cause blood sugar levels in the body to rise. In a diabetic patient it can make their diabetes more difficult to control, causing the patient to need different medication or medical assistance.
High blood sugar can result in Hyperglycemia, when the levels of blood sugar or blood glucose can no longer be managed by the body. Symptoms of hyperglycemia include extreme thirst, the need to urinate frequently, headaches, tiredness, trouble concentrating and blurred vision. If you experience these symptoms over a period of time, Hyperglycemia can damage your organs, which can be life threatening.
Nearly 22% of diabetic patients develop the final stage of gum disease, known as periodontal disease. This can be a difficult stage to treat and has irreversible dental effects. Besides the dental implications, periodontal disease can cause blood glucose levels to remain high for a long period of time and lead to chronic Hyperglycemia.
How to prevent Gum Disease
If you suffer from dry mouth, you should make an appointment to see your dentist about how to change your dental routine to prevent gum disease and combat the other effects of dry mouth. One of the best ways to combat dry mouth is to stay hydrated and chew sugar free gum.
If you suffer from symptoms such as red and swollen gums, constant bad breath, sensitive gums, tender or bleeding gums, or have trouble chewing, you most likely have an early stage of gum disease and should see your dentist as soon as possible. He or she will be able to put you on a treatment plan that will cater for diabetic patients and any other specific needs.