Diabetes and Dentistry

Categories: Oral Health

Dental Problems Associated with Diabetes

When diabetes is poorly controlled, high glucose (sugar) levels can cause an increase in plaque levels which can lead to tooth decay, and further exacerbate the progression of the gum disease. That is why we often see an increase prevalence of gingivitis and periodontal disease in patients with diabetics.

The relationship between gum disease and diabetes forms a 2-way streak. In other words, people with diabetes are more susceptible to severe gum disease, which in turn detrimentally affects the ability to control blood glucose level and can further cause progression of diabetes.

The first few signs of gum disease are tender, swollen, and bleeding gums. It is important to note that the absence of signs does not validate that you do not have gum disease. Sometimes, gum disease does not present with any signs of symptoms that may warn a patient of its onset.

There are several common mouth problems that present in someone with diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause dry mouth (xerostomia). Due to lack of saliva, this can also cause cavities and gum disease. Another common problem that may occur is oral thrush (candidiasis), which presents as white or red sore patches that can turn into open sores on gums, tongue, cheeks, or the roof of one’s mouth. Lastly, oral burning can also be a common problem that may occur due to an uncontrolled level of blood glucose level.

It is of utmost importance to routinely check your mouth for the common problems that are listed above. Moreover, it is essential to visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup.

Ways to keep your mouth healthy:

  • Maintain blood glucose levels as closely to your pre-determined target as possible. You should work closely with your doctor to set the desired target blood glucose levels. Eating healthier meals and exercising can also help you control your blood glucose levels.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. If possible, brush after having any sugary or starchy snacks.
  • Drink water that contains fluoride or ask your dentist about using a fluoride mouth rinse to prevent cavities.
  • Floss your teeth once a day to prevent plaque accumulation and tooth decay.
  • Schedule an appointment with your dentist if any symptoms of mouth problems occur.
  • See your dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkup. It is important to report any changes that may have occurred with your physician when it comes to medications, dosages, HbA1c in order to accurately monitor and treatment plan your dental needs accurately.
  • Tell you dentist that you have diabetes. It is important to report any changes in your overall health as well as changes in medications that may have occurred since last visit.
  • Furthermore, you should share your base line glucose level, HbA1c, fasting blood glucose with your dentist as this may affect what kind of dental treatments that you can and cannot undergo. If you have uncontrolled diabetes, it is important to consult with your doctor if you’ll need to take antibiotics before your dental appointment.
  • If you’re a smoker, do everything in your power to stop smoking as this will accelerate the progression of gum disease and exacerbate the overall oral health.

Written by Dr. Parth Parekh