Diabetes is an extremely serious illness that affects more than 29 million Americans, and the numbers continue to rise. Although many people think of diabetes as a condition that impacts your blood glucose levels, it also has a significantly negative impact on your dental health. Fortunately, you can take charge of your health by controlling your blood sugar, flossing, brushing and regularly visiting your dentist. Here are just a few of the reasons why it is essential to practice good oral health, especially when dealing with diabetes.
One of the most common symptoms of diabetes is a dry mouth. Unfortunately, the lack of sufficient saliva production in your mouth will also increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Saliva helps to wash away the tarter and food remnants from your teeth, so if you aren't producing sufficient amounts of saliva, there is a high likelihood of developing dental problems. There are two types of problem with your gums that you should be concerned about with a lack of saliva as a result of diabetes — gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that is caused by plaque, which is a sticky, colorless and soft film of bacteria that accumulates on your gums and teeth. When plaque isn’t removed through daily flossing and brushing, it begins to produce poisonous toxins that irritate your gums, resulting in gingivitis. The most common symptoms of gingivitis include red, tender and swollen gums, which bleed when you brush your teeth. As gingivitis worsens, your gums may also begin to recede.
- Periodontitis is a more chronic form of gingivitis and is referred to as gum disease. With periodontitis, your gums and other periodontal structures of your mouth are severely inflamed, sore, red and swollen. People with diabetes are especially prone to periodontitis because of their weakened immune system and the lack of enough blood supply to their gums.
Unfortunately, diabetes also affects your immune system, which puts you at a high risk of infection. One of the most common types of infections that can affect your dental health is candidiasis (oral thrush). Your saliva will have a higher content of sugar which yeast thrives on. Oral thrush looks like a white coating on the inside of your cheeks and your tongue. It is more common for those who wear dentures, and it often leaves a bad taste in your mouth. If you suspect you may have oral thrush or any other type of mouth infection, it is essential that you visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Slow Healing Mouth Injuries
Have you noticed a cut or cold sore on your gums or in your mouth that seems to take forever to heal? Unfortunately, this is another way that diabetes may affect your oral health. Having poor control of your blood sugar may prevent injuries to your body, including in your mouth, from healing quickly and properly. If you have a sore or injury in your mouth that isn’t healing correctly as quickly as it should, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist.
It is important to brush your teeth at least twice each day and floss once a day. Flossing and brushing on a regular basis will help to remove food remnants that are stuck between your teeth. It is also important to practice eating a healthy diet, which will not only help your diabetes but can also help reduce the risk of dental health problems. When visiting your dentist, be sure to make them aware of your diabetes, and you should also discuss any dental problems with your doctor as well. Keep in mind that the earlier your dentist knows about your situation, the sooner you can receive the appropriate dental treatment.
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