Nearly 8% of the American population have diabetes with 1.6 million new cases diagnosed yearly for ages 20 and over. Diabetics may have problems with the eyes, kidneys, heart and nerves as well as lower resistance to infection and a slower healing process.
If diabetes is not controlled, oral bacteria thrive in high glucose levels in saliva. Without proper brushing and flossing, the bacteria form a sticky film called plaque, which hardens into tartar. This leads to periodontal (gum) disease. It’s not unusual for diabetics with inadequate blood sugar control to find themselves dealing with gum disease. Typically, they develop gum disease more often and more severely. It has also been shown that they lose more teeth than those who have good control over their diabetes. The most common oral health problems of diabetics are: tooth decay, periodontal disease, salivary gland dysfunction, fungal infections, inflammatory skin disease, delayed healing, and taste impairment.
Dry mouth, common among diabetic patients, greatly increases the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease without adequate saliva to help wash away food particles. Using a fluoride mouthwash can help. These are sold over-the-counter at drug stores. Sugarless gum, sugarless mints and taking frequent sips of water may help alleviate a dry mouth. Limiting caffeine and alcohol also help.
An oral condition that appears more frequently among diabetics is oral candidiasis, a fungal infection in the mouth, which occurs especially with denture wearers. An antifungal medication can be prescribed to treat this. Another is Lichen Planus, which is a skin disorder that produces lesions in the mouth. A severe type causes painful ulcers that erode surface tissue. Although there is no cure, a topical medication can relieve the condition. And, while some diabetics feel their taste is diminished, taste impairment is usually not severe. Altered taste sensations are barely perceptible to most diabetic patients and hopefully do not negatively influence food choices.
Not only for oral health, but for good overall health, diabetics should maintain good blood sugar levels, a well-balanced diet according to specific needs, proper oral care at home and regular dental checkups. Preventive oral health care, including professional dental cleanings, is important to avoid gum disease and other oral health problems.
In dentistry, the sooner the better. Problems in the mouth do not repair on their own. For a custom approach to your oral health and wellness, call toll free 1-855-9-Smiles or (586) 739-2155 to arrange a free consultation to discuss your needs. Together, we can help you avoid the most common oral health problems of diabetics and enjoy a healthy, happy smile.