Diabetes is one of the most common conditions affecting Canadians. According to Diabetes Canada, an estimated 11 million Canadians suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. That translates to about one in three Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes. But did you know that diabetes can have a significant impact on your dental health? In addition to taking a toll on your eyes, nerves, kidneys, and heart, diabetes can affect your teeth and gums. Read on to discover how diabetes and dental health are connected and what you can do to protect your oral health.
How are diabetes and dental health connected?
Diabetes is a disease in which your body either doesn’t produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is produced by your pancreas and helps regulate your body’s blood sugar. Regulating your blood sugar is key to ensuring your body functions properly. High blood sugar can negatively impact your organs and nerves. But high blood sugar also affects your teeth and gums and puts you more at risk for certain diseases. As such, managing your blood sugar level is crucial, both with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes puts you more at risk for gum disease and other oral health issues
If you have diabetes, you are more at risk for the following:
· Cavities (tooth decay): if you have diabetes, good oral health depends on managing your blood sugar levels. As your mouth is full of tiny bacteria, when you consume certain foods or drinks, the sugar or starch interacts with these bacteria and forms plaque on your teeth. The acidity of the plaque attacks the enamel and dentine on your teeth and can lead to cavities (decay) and even gum disease.
· Gingivitis (early gum disease): Poor blood sugar control increases the risk for gum problems. In fact, gum disease is one of the most common dental diseases affecting people with diabetes. Diabetes reduces your body’s ability to fight bacteria. Therefore, plaque can build up on the gum line and harden turning into tartar. And the longer plaque and tartar stay on teeth, the more they will irritate your gums. This can cause swelling and bleeding, known as gingivitis.
· Periodontitis (advanced gum disease): If left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, which is a much more serious condition. In fact, this chronic inflammatory disease can destroy your gums and even the bones and tissues holding your teeth in place. This disease is sneaky because it is often painless!
· Dry mouth: Unfortunately, diabetes also affects how much saliva you produce. As saliva is key to protecting your teeth, reduced saliva production can also lead to more cavities.
· Thrush: Once again, people with diabetes are more prone to developing thrush, a fungal infection in the mouth. This infection usually manifests as painful red or white spots in the mouth.
Your action plan
As diabetes puts you more at risk for several oral health diseases, it is important to have a diabetes dental health action plan. Proper dental care and regular visits to your dentist are important. Here are a few ways you can protect against disease and keep teeth and gums healthy:
· Brush twice a day with a soft bristle toothbrush and floss once a day.
· If you wear dentures, clean them every day.
· Commit to managing your diabetes and controlling your blood sugar, whether through medication or lifestyle changes.
· Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
· Quit smoking.
· See your dentist regularly.
For anyone living with diabetes or prediabetes, managing your blood sugar level is essential. Not only does high blood sugar affect your organs like your kidneys and heart, but it can also seriously affect your teeth and gums. Therefore, practising good oral hygiene will help prevent cavities, gum disease, and other oral health issues. Remember to brush and floss every day and to visit your dentist regularly. Moreover, always remind your dentist that you have diabetes and let them know about any medications you are taking. To schedule an appointment with one of our dentists, contact us today.