The Connection Between Diabetes and Oral Health
By: Lindsey Hesse, RDH, BSDH
Diabetes is a disease that affects millions of people from all social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. In the U.S. alone, 34.2 million people, or 10.5% of our population, have diabetes. Of those, an estimated 26.8 million people are diagnosed while another 7.3 million people have diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed.1
Those diagnosed with diabetes monitor many aspects of their daily lives to keep them healthy, including glucose levels, diet, activity, and more. But did you know that those with diabetes are at higher risk for periodontal disease? That’s why those with diabetes need to ensure a good daily oral health routine and visit the dentist twice a year. Read on to learn more about diabetes and oral health.
How Diabetes Affects the Mouth
Those with diabetes, especially type 2, are at a higher risk for developing dental caries and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is gum disease in its most advanced stages. At the chronic periodontal disease stage, a person can experience loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth. As a result, teeth become loose and begin moving freely. Periodontal disease can lead to issues such as pain when chewing, bad breath, and most seriously, tooth loss. Periodontal disease may also make it hard to control your blood glucose.
Certain medications for diabetes can also put the patient at risk for dental caries. Additional factors such as xerostomia and poor home care are linked to diabetes as well. In some cases, those with diabetes may have to postpone dental treatment to ensure their blood glucose levels are stable enough for the procedure, but it’s best to consult with a physician beforehand to ensure your safety.
Dental Tips for Those with Diabetes
There are a variety of ways to help keep your mouth healthy if you have diabetes. Below are a few suggestions, but you should also seek the help of a dental provider to establish a routine that works best for your individual situation.
- Monitor your sugar intake, as food and drink high in sugar can contribute to dental caries and periodontal disease.
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day.
- See your dentist twice a year for routine exams and be sure to share your full medical history so they can determine the best care plan for you.
- Inform your provider if your dentures aren’t fitting like they used to; this may be a sign of periodontal disease forming due to diabetes.
- If you’re a smoker, work toward quitting, as smoking can worsen periodontal disease.
Periodontal Disease & Diabetes
Conversely, there is also evidence that periodontal disease may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and that having diabetes can worsen periodontal disease.2 Medications used for diabetes such as Metformin and Glipizide may cause changes to the oral cavity, such as xerostomia, burning mouth, candidiasis, and can potentially increase periodontal disease and caries. Overall, maintaining good oral health can help prevent other health issues from developing over time.
If you or a loved one has diabetes, be sure to talk to your dentist and hygienist about actively maintaining a good oral health and hygiene routine to keep you as healthy as possible.