Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes affects about 15.7 million Americans. Nearly 800,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. There are some common oral problems associated with diabetes. They include:

Tooth Decay

When diabetes is not controlled properly, high glucose levels in saliva may help bacteria to thrive. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day help remove the decay-causing bacteria.

Periodontal (gum) Disease

Because diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infections, the gums are among the tissues likely to be affected. Periodontal diseases are infections of the gum and bone. If you notice any of the following, see your dentist right away:

1. Gums that bleed easily
2. Red, swollen or tender gums
3. Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
4. Pus between the teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
5. Persistent bad breath or bad taste
6. Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
7. Any changes in the way your teeth fit together
8. Any changes in the fit of partial dentures

Because of lower resistance to infections and a longer healing time, any of these signs should be dealt with right away.

Salivary Gland Dysfunction

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a common complaint among diabetic patients. Constant dryness irritates the soft tissues of the mouth, often making them inflamed and painful. This condition greatly increases the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease.

We may recommend a saliva substitute that can be used for relief of dry mouth, along with a fluoride mouth rinse that is sold over-the-counter at pharmacies. Using sugarless gum and sugarless mints may also help alleviate dry mouth. Restricting intake of caffeine and alcohol can also help.

Fungal Infections

Oral candidiasis, a fungal infection in the mouth, appears to occur more frequently among persons with diabetes. If you smoke, have high blood glucose levels or are often required to take antibiotics, you are more likely to have this problem. We may prescribe antifungal medications to treat these conditions. As you would expect, good oral hygiene is critical.

Lichen Planus and Lichenoid Reactions

This skin disorder can produce lesions in the mouth. Although the causes are unknown, outbreaks may be triggered by emotional stress. The disease, while generally painless, can cause small pimple-like sores in the mouth. A more severe form can cause ulcers that erode surface tissue. Although there is no permanent cure, we can prescribe topical anesthetics or other medication to reduce and relieve the condition.

Taste Impairment

Some people with diabetes feel that, as a result of the disease, their taste for sweets has diminished. While this is usually not severe, altered taste sensations may influence food choices. To compensate, some diabetics eat more sweet-tasting foods with highly-refined carbohydrate content. If this happens, the diet may worsen the patient’s overall dental health.

Take Care!

Be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of oral disease and contact us right away if problems develop. Practicing good oral hygiene at home, following your physician's dietary and medication instructions, and scheduling regular dental check-ups, will help insure a healthy body and a beautiful smile!