Diabetes is becoming one of the most common diseases in the world. Unfortunately, every day there are thousands of new people diagnosed with it. This is a condition that prevents your body to properly process sugar. There are two types of diabetes, and both of those lead to high blood sugar levels. The disease affects many parts of the body and damages different organs. It can cause problems with the kidneys, eyes, heart and even the mouth. A lot of people are not aware they are suffering from this condition and ignore the many warning signs. Also, the ones that are already getting treatment don’t understand the effects diabetes can have on the oral health.
What are the Oral Symptoms of Diabetes?
One of the first symptoms of this disease is a dry mouth. It is caused by a reduced salivary flow and it leads to a burning sensation appearing in the mouth and tongue. The xerostomia can be caused by some of the medication that patients take. This sensation is especially strong in people with uncontrolled diabetes. The tasting sensation might also be altered due to the lack of saliva. Other symptoms include a higher caries incidence, gingivitis and periodontitis, bad breath, bacterial and fungal infections and more.
Diabetes and Gum Disease
Diabetics very often suffer from problems with their gums. It all starts as gingivitis or an inflammation of the gums. They appear as red, swollen and bleed spontaneously or when brushing. This is a result of poor oral hygiene or uncontrolled diabetes. If patients notice these signs they should pay a visit to their dentist. There, they will get the proper advice on how to treat the inflammation. Luckily, this is a reversible condition that can be stopped with the appropriate measures.
If the gingivitis is not treated it will progress to periodontitis. This condition affects the supporting tissues of the teeth and the surrounding bone. It is the most common oral disease and patients with diabetes are unfortunately more susceptible to periodontitis. The ones that have uncontrolled levels of blood sugar are at a greater risk of being affected. People with diabetes have trouble with fighting the bacteria responsible for the gum inflammation, therefore need to pay much more attention to their oral health and hygiene.
If diabetics don’t visit their dentists regularly and don’t have that ideal oral hygiene, the periodontitis will progress to advanced stages. That is when the advanced loss of bone and tissue happens. Periodontal disease is a complication of diabetes, but also once it’s present it complicates the process of controlling the disease. The severe periodontal disease causes an increase in blood sugar. In the same time, the body is much more susceptible to infections and has less power to fight bacteria.
Diabetes and Fungal Infections
Oral candidiasis is a common opportunistic fungal infection associated with diabetes. It is caused by Candida Albicans and it usually appears in moist and warm areas of the body, including the mouth. With diabetics, thrush can appear as a primary infection in the mouth, but it can also occur as a secondary one, due to xerostomia or use of antibiotics.
Unfortunately, people with diabetes are more likely to develop oral candidiasis. The reason for this is the high levels of blood sugar. As with any other complication, uncontrolled diabetes has greater chances of oral infections. Another very important factor is the weaker immune system that diabetics have. Smoking, dentures and poor oral hygiene are the other predisposing factors for a thrush.
The symptoms are characteristic and can be recognized very easily by a dentist. They include white lesions located in the mouth, specifically on the tongue, oral part of the cheeks and the back parts of the oral cavity. Patients might experience a change in their perception of taste and dry mouth. The tongue will be red, and also bleeding might be present. Cracks on the skin at the corners of the lips are very common.
Diabetes and Bacterial Infections
Oral bacterial infections happen very often with diabetics. These patients have a weaker immune system that can’t fight the bacteria the same way a healthy organism would do. Diabetics have a dysfunctional defense mechanism and that causes recurrent infections. Also, wound healing is slower.
Diabetes and Caries
The lowered immune system, the decreased salivary flow, and susceptibility to bacterial infections lead to a higher risk of caries with diabetics.
How to Take Care of Your Oral Health if You are a Diabetic?
Your care should start with scheduling regular visits to the dentist. Scientists proved that the good oral health can help with controlling the levels of blood sugar. These two have a very close correlation. If you are taking really good care of your teeth and gums that might prove very useful in regulating the disease.
First of all, if your blood sugar levels are under control, you shouldn’t be experiencing any problems. That way your body will be stronger and able to fight any type of bacteria or fungi that can cause an infection. You will be advised to brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush, and floss once a day. If you are wearing dentures they should also be cleaned every day. Aside from this, professional care will be required. Deep cleanings, fillings, and other regular procedures should be performed if necessary.
Implementing the proper diet that will help you have the disease under control is another important thing. Smokers should tend to quit that bad habit. Exercising and physical activities are highly recommended.
You should schedule visits for at least twice a year. If you notice any weird symptoms, sensations or feelings you should immediately call for an appointment. Infections are very common and should be treated as soon as possible, otherwise, the complications will be hard to treat. That is why you should make oral hygiene and regular dental visits your priority.