It becomes much harder to maintain good oral health without carefully controlling the diabetes, and diabetes becomes harder to control when oral health isn’t a priority. Gum disease is just one oral health problem that is harder to avoid with diabetes.
We hear all the time how bad sugar is for teeth. Harmful oral bacteria loves eating the leftover sugar in our mouths after we eat or drink something sweet, but it also loves the sugar in the bloodstream. In addition, high blood sugar is hard on the immune system, making it more difficult to fight back against that same bacteria and leaving diabetic patients particularly vulnerable to oral inflammation and tooth decay.
More than a fifth of diabetics, whether they have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, have some form of gum disease, ranging from gingivitis (the early stages of inflammation) all the way to periodontitis (advanced gum disease), which threatens the teeth, gums, and supporting bone. Even overall health can be a victim of gum disease, if the bacteria causing it reaches the bloodstream.
Symptoms to watch out for include swollen, red, or bleeding gums, chronic bad breath, gum recession, and teeth feeling looser. Any of these can indicate poor gum health. Diabetes also increases the risk of developing other problems (which in turn increase the risk of gum disease) such as impaired healing ability, more frequent and severe infections, dry mouth, enlarged salivary glands, fungal infections, and burning mouth syndrome.
Diabetes can complicate a lot of things about daily life, but it is still possible to achieve and maintain good oral health with diabetes. Maintaining good daily oral hygiene habits like brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing daily will definitely make a difference. So will keeping up with regular dental checkups, being careful with sugar intake, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking.
Gum disease, whether a complication of diabetes or not, can present a challenge for orthodontic treatment. Any diabetics considering orthodontic treatment should take extra care to maintain control of their diabetes and oral health so that their treatment can go forward and they’ll be able to enjoy having a properly aligned smile.
Regular dental exams are especially essential for those with diabetes, because the early signs of dental problems aren’t always obvious and the sooner they’re caught, the easier they are to deal with. Your doctor can also work with your dentist in helping you to manage both your diabetes and your oral health, which is why it’s important to keep them both in the loop!