Over 37 million people, the equivalent of 11.3% of the population, have diabetes in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than three times that number could have prediabetes, a reversible condition that often develops into type 2 diabetes.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes result in high levels of sugar in your bloodstream when they’re left uncontrolled. It’s this elevated level of blood glucose that causes widespread damage throughout your body, creating the health risks associated with the disease.
Los Altos Family Smiles would like to remind our present and future patients that those with prediabetes and diabetes often need extra care to maintain their oral health. Your dentist is just one of the medical professionals you need on your diabetes management team. Here’s what you need to know about the effects of diabetes on your teeth and gums.
You probably know that sugary foods and drinks can take a toll on your teeth, causing decay and gum disease. Saliva serves as a diluting agent to reduce the damage that sweet things cause, but when you have high blood sugar, your saliva has high sugar levels too. Diluting sugars from food isn’t as easy.
What’s more, when your diabetes is uncontrolled, you could have round-the-clock levels of elevated sugar in your mouth even when you’re not eating or drinking. That can speed bacterial growth, tooth decay, and gum disease.
White blood cells attack infections in your body. High blood glucose levels from diabetes weaken the power of these important immune system components. You could be more vulnerable to infections in your mouth. The inflammation associated with gum disease could advance unchecked, leading to gums that bleed easily.
The only thing worse than saliva with a high sugar content is perhaps so little saliva that you have chronically dry mouth, a common symptom of diabetes. Not only is the sugar level of saliva high, there’s not enough to dilute bacteria and food debris in your mouth.
A fungal infection affecting the mouth and tongue, thrush is more likely to affect diabetics, particularly those who use antibiotics frequently to combat other bacterial infections. Like the bacteria that cause gum disease, the thrush fungus thrives in high-sugar environments. You may have thrush if you’re feeling burning sensations in your mouth or on your tongue.
The most important part of diabetes management is the control of blood sugar levels. When glucose is well managed, you slow or stop the risk of further complications, including oral health issues.
Twice yearly dental wellness checks are a minimum for those with diabetes. Some people may need more frequent visits, since sores inside the mouth can be slow to heal.
Call our office or use the appointment request tool on this page to arrange your consultation with a smile professional at Los Altos Family Smiles. We’ll help you care for the diabetes-related challenges you may face. Schedule your visit today.