Many of you are probably wondering what diabetes could possibly have to do with oral health, and the answer is that although anyone can be affected by dental complications, diabetes increases risk here as well. Diabetes, through the effects of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can cause damage to the blood vessels that supply the the jaw, mouth and gums. If the blood vessels supplying the gums are blocked, partially blocked or damaged the necessary nutrients, oxygen, or the body's infection fighters can be impeded from reaching them. Because of this, diabetics are more susceptible to oral infections and the development of periodontal (gum) disease than non diabetics, and it is estimated that one-third of people with diabetes suffer from gum disease, which also tends to be more severe. Additionally, diabetics have increased risks of developing cavities, fungal infections, and may heal more slowly after dental work/surgery.
• Gingivitis - An accumulation of bacteria called plaque builds on the teeth continually and as it does the bacteria produces and releases toxins that irritate and inflame gum tissue, which if not removed on a daily basis can lead to gingivitis. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease in which the gums become inflamed, red and tender causing them to bleed when brushed and to pull away from the teeth and recede. If left untreated gingivitis can cause spaces in between the teeth and gums to develop that can fill with plaque as well as food particles that can rot, causing painful infections. Continued lack of treatment will lead to full blown gum disease that damages bone and connective tissues that hold teeth in place.
• Dry mouth - Dry mouth (xerostomia) occurs when the salivary glands are not functioning properly resulting in decreased saliva. Saliva not only aids in digestion, but is a necessary factor in oral health because it also helps to keep your mouth moist and prevent tooth decay. Dry mouth can also be an indicator of other serious health conditions such as AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, Sjögren's syndrome and Stroke. Diabetic neuropathy can also affect the salivary glands.
• Thrush (oral candidiasis) - Thrush is a fungal infection that occurs when the fungus Candida albicans invades and accumulates in the lining of the mouth causing creamy white lesions usually on your inner cheeks and tongue. It is possible for thrush to spread into your gums, tonsils and to the top of your mouth and back of your throat. The lesions caused by thrush can be painful and bleed if they are scraped or when they are brushed, they can also make eating difficult by causing pain while chewing. Thrush is most common among babies, toddlers, older adults or those with compromised immune systems. Diabetes can compromise the immune system by causing damage to blood vessels that blocks the body's infection fighters from reaching the infection. This can make any infection more severe than it would be otherwise.
• Burning Mouth Syndrome - Burning mouth syndrome is a condition with no determined cause and is characterized by a chronic burning pain in your mouth. This burning sensation can be severe, feeling much the same as scalding and can affect the overall areas of your mouth such as your tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, and the roof of your mouth. Although BMS has no known cause and finding treatment may by difficult, most people can bring it under control by working with an oral health specialist.
Although practicing good dental hygiene on a daily basis can go a long way in preventing oral complications, as a diabetic you should take extra care and prevention by not allowing ANY infection or cavity to get a good start. At the first sign of a problem make an appointment with your physician and have it checked and treated if necessary, because complications associated with diabetes are quicker to develop and tend to be more severe. And here again the health of your circulatory system plays a major role as well, so by following "The Five Star Plan for Diabetics" and eliminating the "Triple Threat" you can keep your oral health in good shape. Diabetic patients need to make appointments for regular dental checkups and insure that their dentist is aware of the fact that they are diabetic, so that the dentist can advise them of any additional steps that may be necessary to ensure the health of their teeth and gums.