Diabetes and oral health have a close relationship. If the diabetes isn’t carefully controlled, it will be much harder to maintain good oral health, and vice versa.
You’ve probably already heard that sugar is bad for oral health. The harmful bacteria in our mouths love to eat leftover sugar stuck to our teeth after we enjoy a tasty treat. Unfortunately, high blood sugar is just as delicious to harmful oral bacteria. High blood sugar also weakens the immune system, making that same bacteria harder to fight. This leaves diabetic patients, including children, more vulnerable to tooth decay and oral inflammation.
An estimated 22 percent of diabetics (both type 1 and type 2) have gum disease. It might only be in the early stages of inflammation (gingivitis) or it might be much more advanced (periodontitis), threatening the health of the teeth, gums and even the supporting bone. If the bacteria causing the gum disease makes its way into the bloodstream, it can threaten overall health too.
Symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, bad breath, gum recession, and looser teeth. Other problems associated with diabetes can also increase the risk of gum disease, such as dry mouth, impaired ability to heal, burning mouth syndrome, more frequent and severe infections, enlargement of salivary glands, and fungal infections.
Fortunately, good oral health is still achievable even for patients struggling with diabetes, and maintaining good oral health will make it easier to keep good control over diabetes. Encourage your child to brush twice a day for two full minutes with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste and floss daily, and try to help them keep sugary snacks and drinks to a minimum. If you’re doing all of this and scheduling their recommended number of yearly dental appointments, you’ll be on the right track!
We want everyone to have healthy, properly aligned smiles, but gum disease can make it difficult or impossible to begin or continue orthodontic treatment. That’s why it’s even more crucial for diabetics who are current orthodontic patients or who are considering orthodontic treatment to maintain careful control of their diabetes and their oral health.
We want to emphasize the importance of those regular dental visits. The dentist can recognize warning signs before you can and recommend adjustments to the daily oral hygiene routine before any problems can get worse. The dentist and the doctor can also work as a team to help keep your child, their teeth, and their gums healthy — just make sure to keep them both up to date about any changes!