How diabetes affects your oral health

Diabetes is one of the world's major chronic health problems with 29.1 million Americans are affected. That is almost 10 percent of the population and many cases go undiagnosed.

Warning signs of diabetes include the following:

  •   high blood sugar
  •   frequent thirst
  •   frequent urination
  •   fatigue
  •   weight loss

When left untreated, diabetes can cause the following oral health problems:

  •  decreased saliva flow leading to an increased risk for cavities
  •  difficulty healing after dental surgery 
  •  oral infections tend to be more severe
  •  burning mouth syndrome
  •  bleeding gums and being more susceptible to periodontal disease
  •  problems tasting food
  •  for diabetic children, teeth may erupt an an earlier age than normal

Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting people living with diabetes. Of the almost 27 percent of diabetes who are diagnosed, poor blood sugar control increases risk of gum problems, increased gum problems make it difficult to control blood sugar and it becomes more difficult to fight bacteria in the gums

How can you protect your teeth and oral health? Dr. Terri Alani shares the following recommendations:

  • Brush at least twice daily and floss daily
  • Use an antibacterial mouth rinse twice daily to keep bacteria under control
  • Check your mouth periodically for any sores that do not heal, bleeding gums and inflammation..advise your dentist immediately
  • Get more frequent dental cleanings, perhaps every 3-to-4 months rather than every 6 months
  • Be open with your dentist and inform him or her about all medications you are taking
  • Keep blood sugar levels under control
  • Reduce or eliminate sugars and starches from your diet

When is the best time for diabetics to receive dental care? Morning appointments are best when blood glucose levels are under better control. Dentists should keep dental procedures short and patients should postpone dental appointments if their blood sugar levels are too high and consult their physicians.