By now you must be aware that diabetes and associated high blood sugar levels can damage your eyes, kidneys, heart and other crucial organs. But did you know that diabetes can affect your pearly whites too? That’s right, diabetes and oral health are more closely connected than many people expect. In this article, we take a closer look at how high blood sugar levels can affect the health of your teeth, gums and mouth, and what you can do to keep these problems away.
If you have poorly controlled blood glucose (sugar) levels, you are more likely to face problems with your teeth and gums because diabetes lowers your immunity and slows down the healing process in your cells. This can lead to frequent oral infections.
High blood sugar can also reduce the saliva produced in your mouth. A common oral manifestation of diabetes, dry mouth can result in tooth decay, enamel erosion, loss of minerals from your teeth, sensitivity, etc. Thus, diabetes and high blood sugar levels can cause several oral health issues if left unchecked.
Uncontrolled diabetes and the associated high blood sugar levels can lead to the following problems in your mouth:
Dry mouth in diabetes is a result of dehydration and changes to the salivary glands caused by high blood sugar levels. This can cause decreased saliva production and flow, often leading to tooth decay, difficulty in chewing and swallowing, soreness, infections, and ulcers in the mouth.
In people with diabetes, wounds and sores take longer to heal. This happens because your cells require glucose to heal and repair themselves, which is not easily available in the case of a diabetic individual. This delayed healing, combined with poor immunity, leads to the wounds in your mouth getting infected.
Your mouth contains a certain number of bacteria and other microorganisms growing in it at any given time. When you have high blood sugar levels, they can promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth. Also, dry mouth and decreased saliva production in diabetes can lead to plaque build-up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of microorganisms like bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums. This plaque build-up in your mouth can eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
This is an infection of the gums that could also spread to the jawbone that holds your teeth in place. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss around the world.
In the initial stages, where just your gums are affected, it is commonly known as gingivitis. If the infection progresses to your bones, it is called periodontitis. Uncontrolled diabetes and periodontitis can cause pain, bad breath, tooth loss, etc.
Your mouth is often a host to microbes like bacteria and yeast, which co-exist in a delicate balance. High blood sugar levels and poor immunity caused by diabetes can disrupt this balance and lead to the growth of yeast or fungus in your mouth. This can result in yeast or Candidal infections of the oral cavity.
Research has shown that gum diseases are associated with higher blood sugar (higher Hb1Ac) levels in people with and without diabetes. Untreated dental and periodontal infections can cause your blood sugar levels to rise, which can further cause complications in diabetics.
The treatment method prescribed by your doctor will be based on your age, blood sugar levels and the dental issue you may have. The following are a few treatment options:
Removing plaque, tartar or calculus (hardened plaque) from your teeth and from beneath your gums can help prevent the spread of the infection to your bones and teeth. Your dentist may also remove some of the infected gum tissues. This is done by deep cleaning, also called scaling and root planing.
Your dentist may prescribe some antibiotics or antifungal medicines to help fight infections like thrush or periodontitis.
In more advanced stages of the disease, your dentist may remove the decayed tooth, the infected gum tissue, or some part of the infected bone.
You can prevent tooth and gum problems by following these simple steps:
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