Diabetes affects almost one in every ten Americans, and millions more are pre-diabetic. This disease that affects the body’s ability to control the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood has devastating effects on the body. What this blog focuses on is its devastating effects on the mouth!
Patients with diabetes have a higher risk for several different dental problems. The level of control over a diabetic person’s blood sugar has a direct effect on the severity of problems in the mouth. The more out of control someone’s blood sugar is, the more likely he is to experience a worsening of his or her dental risk.
Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
The biggest and most obvious correlation between diabetes and dental disease is evident in chronic periodontal disease. Diabetes leads of a decrease in blood supply to the extremities of the body, and a lack of blood flow leads to damage to the nerves in those areas. This is why diabetics often end up with problems in their eyes and toes. What many people do not realize is that the gums are an “extremity” too.
The lack of blood flow to the gums causes a “silent” progression of destruction of the tissues holding the teeth (the gums, ligaments and jawbones). Studies show a mutual relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes. When blood sugar is uncontrolled, gum disease becomes more difficult to treat. The reverse is also true. Untreated gum disease actually elevates your blood sugar. The best treatment of gum disease in diabetic patients is one that addresses BOTH the gum disease and the diabetes concurrently.
Another common symptom of diabetes is a reduced salivary function leading to dry mouth. Saliva is the body’s natural defense against dangerous bacteria in the mouth. It helps to wash away plaque buildup and contains enzymes that begin the digestion process. Saliva also lubricates the tissues lining the inside of the mouth, protecting them from sores, ulcers, and injuries. Without saliva, the oral environment is NOT healthy.
The dry mouth caused by diabetes compounds the risk for periodontal disease because it allows for more plaque buildup with a different, stickier consistency. Higher accumulation of plaque on the teeth increases your risk for both cavities and gum disease.
Patients with diabetes are notoriously bad “healers”. When they require dental surgery to treat a problem, they can expect a longer, more complicated healing process. The reason for this is the same as the reason for the increased risk for gum disease: lack of good blood flow. If you anticipate any dental surgery (or any surgery at all, for that matter), you should work with your medical doctor to attain the best control over your blood sugar BEFORE proceeding with any surgical procedures.
High Risk of Implant Failure
Dental implants are a wonderful treatment option to replace missing teeth. Diabetic patients must proceed with caution, though. Uncontrolled blood sugar greatly increases the risk of implant failure. The reason? You guessed it: lack of good blood flow. In order for a dental implant to integrate into the jawbone, it must have good blood flow bring the proper cells and nutrients to the surgical site.
This does not mean people with diabetes should never get dental implants. It simply means that you must work closely with your medical doctor and your dentist to confirm that you are in your healthiest state before the implant surgery. This will ensure your best chance at implant success.
Change in Taste Sensation
Changes in the nerve endings caused by a lack of blood flow in diabetic patients can also lead to changes in your sense of taste. This can often be the first sign of a problem with blood sugar. Because it happens slowly over time, many people are unaware of its slow progression. If you notice that food does not taste as good or the same as it used to, talk to your medical doctor about a physical with blood work to make sure you are not experiencing the effects of diabetes.
More Questions about Diabetes and its Effect on Your Mouth?
Call 972-347-1145 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara. They can answer any question you have and assess your personal risk areas. With proper preventive care and good control of your blood sugar, you can stop diabetes from wrecking your mouth.