Diabetes and the effect on dental health

When people think of diabetes, the first association that comes to mind may not be dental issues but sadly, this can be a reality for many people. In particular, individuals with poorly managed diabetes can be at a greater risk of dental problems. Why is this the case? Well, diabetes can lower the blood supply to the gums and high blood sugar can cause dry mouth.


What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where your body either cannot produce insulin or it cannot use the insulin it produces properly. Insulin is produced by your pancreas and regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. An excess amount of blood sugar can damage nerves, organs, and blood vessels. There are three types of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where you cannot produce your own insulin because your body is attacking the pancreas. You would need to inject insulin into your body or use an insulin pump. With type 2 diabetes, you can’t properly use the insulin made by your body or your body is not able to make enough insulin. Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that expecting mothers develop during pregnancy. However, it can increase the risk of the mother or baby developing diabetes later in life. Excessive glucose (sugar) in your blood from diabetes can cause infection, pain, and other issues in your mouth.


Does diabetes affect dental health?

People don’t often view diabetes and teeth as related, but there is a link between diabetes and oral health. Many people living with diabetes may not know that bacteria from the gums can enter the bloodstream or airways and move to other parts of the body. Individuals with diabetes are prone to different kinds of infections, including gum disease. In turn, oral infections can make it hard to control diabetes, which could result in complications. 


Can diabetes cause bad teeth?

Yes, diabetes can cause “bad teeth”. This is why it is important for a person with diabetes to manage their blood sugar level. The higher the blood sugar level, the greater the risk of tooth decay. The mouth normally hosts many types of bacteria. The sticky white substance that forms on the teeth, including around the gum line is referred to as plaque bacteria. Sugars and starches found in food and beverages interact with plaque bacteria to form acids that can attack the teeth and result in cavities. When the blood sugar level is high, the supply of sugars in the mouth also increases which means more acid decay and damage the teeth.


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Can diabetes lead to periodontitis?

Diabetes can lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (gum or periodontal disease). Gum disease is a chronic bacterial infection that impacts the gum tissue and bone that supports the teeth. As time passes, the build-up of plaque bacteria solidifies into calcium deposits commonly known as calculus or tartar. At this stage, brushing and flossing cannot remove the hardened plaque. The bacteria can cause gingivitis, get through the gum line, and spread to the underlying bone.

If your gum disease is not treated, you can get abscesses or your tooth’s supporting tissue may be completely destroyed, resulting in tooth loss. Gum disease is more detrimental to those with diabetes because the disease lowers a person’s ability to fight infection and prolongs healing time.


 What can be done to prevent these issues?

There are many things you can and should do to avoid dental issues if you have diabetes. You should keep track of your blood sugar levels and try to keep them within the target range, book regular dental hygiene appointments, and watch out for early signs of gum disease (including swelling, redness, and bleeding gums). Lastly, maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, scraping your tongue, and using mouthwash.


If your teeth are yellowing or you are seeing other signs of gum disease, contact a Dawson Dental dentist’s office near you immediately. After scaling and planing, gums become healthier and gingivitis can be kept in check with a regular oral hygiene routine.