Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood sugar. Blood sugar or glucose is a source of energy for the brain and for the cells that make up the muscles and tissues. The main cause of diabetes varies by type, but no matter what type of diabetes, it can lead to excess sugar in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can lead to serious health problems including dental problems. To help spread awareness during Diabetes Awareness Month, we have made a list of a few things to know. If you have any specific concerns or questions, the dedicated team at Fedorciw, Massoumi & Kolbig of Middlesex is here to help.
Most people who have been diagnosed with diabetes have been told about the possible harm to the eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, and other important systems of the body. Few, however, are aware of the oral health problems to be vigilant of.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) is more likely to occur in people with diabetes. Gum disease is an infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. This infection can lead to pain, bad breath, chewing difficulties, and even tooth loss. Periodontal disease will not go away by itself, it must be treated by a trained specialist, like the experienced doctors of Fedorciw, Massoumi & Kolbig. With proper treatment, your gums can heal and remain healthy for a strong and beautiful smile.
Why Does Diabetes Affect the Mouth?
One reason diabetes can affect your oral health is that diabetes slows your body’s natural healing process. Minor oral issues become more common or more serious when your body can not effectively heal itself without the help of medications or dentist intervention.
Other problems include dry mouth and thrush (fungal infection). Dry mouth is a common symptom of someone with high blood sugar. Dry mouth can cause ulcers, infections, and even tooth decay. In combination with an increased sugar level in your saliva, it can lead to having a fungal infection. The most common being thrush. By itself, these symptoms are not dangerous, however, if left untreated or unmaintained, it can lead to serious complications in your oral health.
Signs You May Have Gum Disease
Gum disease can happen to anyone. The increased risk to those diagnosed with diabetes is simply something to be aware of in order to notice the signs.
1. Bleeding gums – While some bleeding may occur if you are brushing or flossing too hard, periodontal disease can cause noticeably more bleeding and is often paired with swollen or sensitive gums.
2. Dry mouth – Dry mouth isn’t a symptom, but a precursor to gingivitis. If you are experiencing dry mouth because of medication or other life changes, talk to our team and find out what you can do to prevent gum disease.
3. White Patches – White patches can be a sign of gingivitis or other fungal diseases. These patches can develop on your gums, the insides of your cheeks, beneath the tongue, and even on your tongue.
4. Bad Taste – An unpleasant taste is another symptom of gum disease. Some patients describe the taste as bitter, metallic, or sour. You may find that it goes away after you brush your teeth, but only for a few hours before it returns.
5. Bad Smell – Chronic bad breath is a tell-tale sign of gum disease. Gum and mints will only mask the scent but never make it disappear.
Treating Gum Disease
Gum disease can often be paired with a number of other complications. That is why it is extremely important to see a periodontist.
Different concerns means treatment depends on which problems you have. People with periodontal disease will need to receive treatment from a dentist, who may do a deep cleaning of your teeth or refer you to one of our periodontists for gum surgery. It is also common to treat gum disease with a special mouthwash to be added to your oral health routine.
To treat thrush and its symptoms, your dentist may prescribe an anti-fungal medicine. Make sure you follow the instructions clearly & don’t miss an application or it can become a longer process.
Dry mouth can be a symptom of medication, so be sure to share a list of any medicines you are currently taking. Depending on your circumstances, your dentist may prescribe a medicine to help keep your mouth wet.
Tips to Prevent Gum Disease with Diabetes
Good blood glucose levels are the key to controlling and preventing many of the issues that stem from diabetes. Those with poor blood sugar levels tend to develop gum disease more often and more severely than others with well-monitored blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, be sure to:
- Monitor your blood sugar levels
- Brush 2x per day and floss regularly
- Schedule regular dental cleanings & checkups.
- Talk to your dentist about diabetes and any concerns
- Tell your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of gum disease or sensitivity in your teeth or gums
- Quit Smoking. Smoking can cause dry mouth and make existing gum disease worse.