Diabetes and Dental Health



Diabetes affects body’s ability to process sugar by breaking the food we eat in order to produce energy. There are two types of diabetes - type I diabetes, where body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from blood to the cells where as in type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. Both the cases results in high blood sugar levels, which affects eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and leads to various other diseases as well.

The relation between the two: So now the obvious question ahead of us is how both of them are related? How does bad mouth or infection in gums leads to or affects the sugar levels in the body? Is vice-versa also true that people with bad sugar levels can have gums problems?

Our mouth, how much we clean it, contains hoards of bacteria and other disease-causing microbes. The key is to not let them settle in the cavity, if they start settling the cavity they might lead to serious gum disease and decaying of the tooth and the cavity. And, when ever we are not vigilant, these bacteria travel down to the system and the blood stream, thus affecting any and almost everything and weakening our immune system and misbalancing the hormones. It is then that the sugar level of the body is not maintained properly especially, when one has type II diabetes.

Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental disease affecting those with diabetes. Especially with the increasing age, blood sugar control deteriorates and poses risk for gum problems. In fact, people with diabetes are at a greater risk for gum and oral problems because of poor blood sugar control. Serious gum disease can cause blood sugar to rise. This makes diabetes harder to control as the patient is more susceptible to infections and are less able to fight the bacteria attacking the tooth and the gums.

Diabetes can also lead to several other problems. The occurrence of these problems can be minimised and reduced

  • Dryness of the mouth: Also called, Xerostomia which occurs when the salivary glands don't produce sufficient saliva to keep the mouth moist, resulting in the inflammation and soreness. This disease makes chewingand swallowing difficult, making it more difficult to control blood sugar.
  • Infection: Candida albicans, a type of fungus that normally lives inside the mouth without causing any problem. But with diabetes, deficient saliva in the mouth and extra sugar allow the fungus to become infectiousleading to candidiasis, which appears as sore white or red in mouth.
  • Complications while having dental prosthesis or surgery: If one needs oral surgery, diabetes, if poorly controlled, can cause complications and increases the recovery time. Diabetes retards healing and increases risk of infection. The blood sugar levels also become harder to control after oral surgery.

So, its better we should look out for any warning signal and be cautious, to take any preventive actions. Following are the warning signals-

In case of diabetes

  • Feeling of constant hunger or thirst
  • Frequent urination, even after less consumption of water
  • The vision becomes blurred and eyes always feels tired and restless
  • Constant fatigue, with weight loss
  • Poor wound healing and even small cuts and bruises takes time to heal
  • Itchy, dry skin and dryness of the mouth
  • Numbness in the body especially, hands or feet

In case of periodontal disorders

  • Swollen gums that bleed often while brushing or flossing and are very sensitive
  • Gums pulled away from the teeth, exposing the roots
  • Yellowish plaque deposits, between the teeth and in the cavities
  • Foul or bad smell coming out of moth or any pus in the gums

If any of the above symptoms erupts, the person should visit the doctor immediately and should not take these symptoms lightly. By practicing a good hygiene and following healthy lifestyle one can avoid both the disease.

  • Controlblood sugar levels. Diabetes-related medications should be used with precaution and strictly as per the advice of the doctor.
  • Avoid Smoking and alcohol and switching to a healthier lifestyle, like regular exercising can help more.
  • Any dental prosthesis like dentures or caps should be cleaned properly and daily.
  • Flossing should be done to clean between the teeth.
  • See dentist for regular check-ups.

It is of importance to keep informed the dentist of the sugar conditions and to keep the physician updated with any gum disease, so that they both could work in sync and help in eliminating the disease. There are certain medicines which should be avoided while undergoing diabetes treatment and hence informing the dentist is the right thing to do.