When you have diabetes, you know how important it is to control your blood sugar. But diabetes affects your entire body, making it even more important to maintain you oral health as well.
Why? Diabetes puts you at a higher risk for developing several oral health problems. And the less you control your blood sugar, the more likely you are to fall victim to these conditions. If you don’t control your diabetes, it impairs your white blood cells—and that’s your body’s main defense against bacterial infections that develop in your mouth.
It’s not only important for diabetics to maintain their oral health, it’s also important to know what conditions they’re higher risk for. We asked Dr. Richard Rosenblatt of Forest North Dental in Lake Forest, Illinois to break it down.
1. Dry mouth. When you don’t control your diabetes it can decrease your saliva flow. When you’re not producing as much saliva as you should be, that leads to dry mouth and the many symptoms that come with it, from mouth sores to a sore throat to constant thirst. And dry mouth can also lead to more serious dental health issues, including gum disease and tooth decay.
2. Gum disease. Diabetes also puts you at higher risk for developing gum disease. How? Diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken, and that slows down the flow of nutrients to and waste products from body tissues. And that, of course, includes your mouth. The problem is, this reduces your body’s ability to fight infection—and gum disease is a bacterial infection. So that means if you don’t control your diabetes, you may not only be more prone to get gum disease, it also may be more severe when you do develop it.
3. Slow healing. If you have uncontrolled diabetes, it might take your oral tissues longer to heal after surgery or other dental procedures.
4. Thrush. Never heard of thrush? It’s a fungal infection that develops on your mouth and tongue. Doesn’t sound so pleasant, right? If you have diabetes and take antibiotics to fight infections, you’re more likely to develop thrush. The fungus thrives on sugar in the saliva, so if you’re not controlling your diabetes you’re giving this fungal infection fuel to thrive.
If you have thrush, you might also experience burning in your tongue and in your mouth.
While your risk for developing gum disease and thrush are higher when you have diabetes, if you smoke as well your risk increases even more. Smoking can also increase the time it takes for your oral tissues to heal after surgery or other dental procedures.
If you’re living with diabetes, you not only must you focus on maintaining your blood sugar, you also need to take care of your oral health. Go to your regular dental checkups, and keep your dentist up-to-date on the latest with your condition. Make sure your dentist and your doctor communicate, and that your dentist knows exactly what medications you’re taking and their dosage.
It’s also important to pay attention to any changes in your oral health, and to contact your dentist right away if something seems off. Follow all home care instructions, and do your part to keep your smile bright and healthy.