Diabetes (also called diabetes mellitus) is a chronic systemic disease which affects your body’s ability to process sugars in your food. As a result, a diabetic patient will have a high blood glucose (sugar) level which can cause a host of issues including problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, and heart. Diabetes can also lower your resistance to infection and can slow the healing process. Diabetes can also affect your oral health in many different ways.
Fast Facts About Diabetes
-Diabetes is a long-term condition that causes high blood sugar levels.
-Diabetes currently affects over 371 million people worldwide and is expected to affect over 550 million by the year 2030. In the United States, a new case of diabetes is diagnosed once every 30 seconds and more than 1.9 million new cases are diagnosed each year.
Types Of Diabetes
-Type 1 Diabetes – In this type, the body does not produce insulin. About 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1.
-Type 2 Diabetes – In this type, the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function. About 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide are of this type.
-Gestational Diabetes – In this type, pregnant females are affected
Common Diabetes Symptoms
1) Frequent need to urinate (polyuria)
2) Intense thirst (polydipsia) and hunger (polyphagia)
3) Unexpalined weight gain
4) Unusual weight loss
5) Fatigue (tiredness)
6) Cuts and bruises that do not heal
7) Male sexual dysfunction
8) Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
-If you have Type 1 and follow a healthy eating plan, do adequate exercise, and take insulin, you can lead a normal life with little to no complications.
-Type 2 patients need to eat healthily, be physically active, and test their blood glucose. They may also need to take oral medication, and/or insulin to control blood glucose levels.
-As the risk of cardiovascular disease is much higher for a diabetic, it is crucial that blood pressure and cholesterol levels are monitored regularly.
-As smoking might have a serious effect on cardiovascular health, diabetics should stop smoking.
-Hypoglycemia – low blood glucose – can have a bad effect on the patient.
-Hyperglycemia – high blood glucose – can also have a bad effect on the patient.
How Is Your Dental Health Affected By Diabetes?
-Periodontal Disease. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, diabetics have an increased risk for developing gingivitis (earliest and most treatable form of periodontal disease), an inflammation usually caused by the presence of bacteria in plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that accumulates on teeth both above and below the gum line. Without regular dental check-ups, periodontal disease may progress if left untreated. It also can cause inflammation and destruction of tissues surrounding and supporting teeth, gums, bone and fibers that hold the gums to the teeth. Research has shown that treating periodontal disease in people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar control.
-Burning Mouth Syndrome. Burning mouth syndrome is a chronic burning in the mouth without an obvious cause. The discomfort can affect your tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth or widespread areas of your oral cavity. Burning mouth syndrome appears suddenly and can be severe, as if you burned your mouth.
-Fungal infections (such as thrush and oral candidiasis). Since diabetes weakens your immune system, you may be prone to developing fungal infections. Symptoms include painful sores and difficulty swallowing. If you develop a fungal infection, it is important to see your dentist as soon as possible.
-Dry mouth (xerostomia). Uncontrolled diabetes can decrease salivary flow, which can result in dry mouth. Dry mouth can further lead to soreness, oral ulcers, oral infections, and increased incidence of tooth decay.
-Infection and delayed healing. People with uncontrolled diabetes do not heal quickly after oral surgery or other dental procedures because blood flow to the treatment site can be impaired.
Dental Care Tips For Diabetic Patients
-Maintain Good Blood Sugar Levels.
-Keep your healthcare team informed including your dentist.
-See your dentist regularly for dental hygiene visits as well as oral examinations. It is recommended that you visit your dentist and hygienist at least every 6 months. For many diabetic patients, it is advised that they go on a more frequent schedule to maintain proper oral health.
-Brush and Floss Daily. This is to prevent plaque build up and keep periodontal disease away. In fact, it is recommended that diabetic patients brush following every meal to ensure good dental hygiene.
-Denture wearers should remove their dentures and clean them daily. Do not sleep in them.
-If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
-Maintain regular visits to your diabetes doctor to ensure there are no conflicts between dental treatment and your general treatment.
-Remember that healing may take longer in people with diabetes. Follow your dentist‘s post-treatment instructions closely.
-Patients with diabetes with orthodontic appliances should contact their orthodontist immediately if a wire or bracket results in a cut to their tongue or mouth.
Diabetes can be a scary diagnosis but with proper monitoring and care it does not have to be. A well controlled diabetic can leave a very normal life and stay healthy for a long, long time. Dental care should never be compromised even for healthy individuals.