The link between diabetes and oral health

In November 2019, a report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) revealed that South African adults with diabetes soared to 4.5-million people- more than double the figure estimated in 2017. 

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to break down and process sugar. In addition, the food you eat turns into sugar and is used for energy. For example, if a person has Type I diabetes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from blood to the cells that require it for energy. In a person with Type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. However, both types result in high blood sugar levels, which can cause certain health problems, including oral health problems.

Diabetes is closely connected to oral health and vice versa. In this blog, we’ll look at how to maintain good oral health if you’re diabetic. Also, we’ll take a look at how controlling your diabetes can be beneficial for your oral health. 

How diabetes can affect oral health 

If diabetes is left untreated, it can take a major toll on your teeth, gums and mouth. Here’s how:

  • Your mouth may produce less saliva causing dry mouth.
  • You may experience delayed wound healing.
  • Since saliva protects your teeth, you’re also at a higher risk of getting cavities.
  • You may have problems tasting food.
  • Gums may bleed and become inflamed.
  • You could become susceptible to infections inside your mouth.
  • For diabetic children, teeth may erupt earlier than is typical.

Blood sugar and gum disease are closely linked

We all have tiny bacteria living in our mouths. If they make their way into your gums, you can end up with gum disease (periodontal disease). Gum disease is an inflammatory condition that can destroy your gums, soft tissue and even your bones.

Gum disease is the most common dental disease that affects diabetics – nearly 22% of those diagnosed. The elderly and those with poor blood sugar control have an increased risk for gum issues.  

On the flip side, having gum disease may cause blood sugar levels to rise. So, this can make diabetes harder to control because you are more susceptible to infections, and your body is capable of fighting the bacteria that attacks gums.

We can help you maintain good oral health if you have diabetes

Regular dental visits are essential for diabetics. Also, research shows that successfully diagnosing and treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in those living with diabetes, thereby decreasing the progression of the disease. Contact us to schedule a dental cleaning or check-up appointment.

Practising meticulous oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings at your dentist’s office can help to lower your HbA1c. An HbA1c test is a lab test that shows your average level of blood sugar over a period of three months. Essentially, it indicates if your diabetes is under control. 

Some tips for managing your diabetes and oral health

Teamwork involving professional dental care and self-care can be beneficial in keeping your healthy smile as well as possibly slowing the progression of diabetes. Furthermore, here are some things you can do to for optimal wellness:

  • Take your diabetes medication as directed by your healthcare practitioner. 
  • Avoid having a dry mouth – drink plenty of water and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow.
  • Changing to a healthier diet and exercising more can help. 
  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily with a soft brush and fluoride toothpaste- even if you have dental implants
  • Use interdental cleaners or dental floss to clean between your teeth once a day
  • If you wear dentures, make sure that you clean them every day with denture cleaning tablets or powder
  • Avoid or limit smoking 
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