Oral diabetes complications may not be top of mind when you think of diabetes complications at-large, but it’s an important part of diabetes health that you certainly shouldn’t overlook. Having less than optimal diabetes glucose levels over time triples your risk for developing gum disease (also called periodontal disease). In addition, you may experience an increased risk of developing cavities, dry mouth, and other oral complications. And even if you don’t have diabetes, having gum disease can cause inflammation, which studies show increases your risk for diabetes.
The saliva in your mouth protects against dryness, food particle and bacteria build-up, and tooth decay. When you have diabetes, your body tends to make less saliva—which means less protection. Diabetes can also increase the amount of glucose in your saliva, leading to more bacterial growth and plaque build-up.
If not properly managed, these issues can eventually lead to gum disease.
Gum disease is an infection that affects the soft tissue in your mouth and can destroy the bones that hold your teeth in place. Ongoing high blood glucose (blood sugar) levels contribute to gum disease getting worse, which is why diabetes care and dental care go hand in hand.
Signs of Gum Disease
Diabetes is best managed with a diabetes care team approach. Your team should include a dental home, which is the ongoing relationship between you, your dental hygienist, and dentist. If you think you may have gum disease, they can identify the problem and create a treatment plan.
Signs of gum disease include:
- Red, swollen, bleeding, or receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Increased space between your teeth
- Dry mouth
- Persistent bad breath, even after you’ve brushed your teeth
Preventing Gum Disease
One of the best defenses you have against gum disease is optimal diabetes management and preventative dental care visits.
Generally speaking, dental care should occur every six months. During your visit, discuss your diabetes and how it affects your oral health, including the warning signs of gum disease.
Preventative Dental Visits Save Money
Often, people skip preventative care from their dentist or doctor in favor of saving money in the short term—but it may cost you in the long term.
When you visit your dental home twice a year, they’ll check for the warning signs of gum disease, or if gum disease is underway, start treatment immediately. The earlier you catch it, the better. Costs for early intervention, like a deep cleaning, are significantly cheaper than in-depth treatments, like a gum or bone graft—so don’t wait!
Simply put, the more time you spend in your dentist’s chair for your twice-yearly visit, the less time and money you’ll be spending in the same dentist’s chair down the road to repair the preventable damage from gum disease.
How Oral Care May Prevent Diabetes
While maintaining a healthy dietary pattern and an active lifestyle are the main preventative measures we can take against developing diabetes, upholding oral care can lower your risk too. In fact, dentists can actually check for the warning signs that you may have diabetes through a regular oral exam.
If you develop gum disease, your gums become inflamed. And inflammation in the body can lead to higher blood glucose (blood sugar) levels—which can contribute to a higher risk of diabetes.
Brushing and flossing your teeth are great safeguards against gum disease and inflammation.
Total body care, including your mouth, is essential when managing diabetes. In the fight against gum disease and diabetes, arm yourself with keeping your blood glucose (blood sugar) in range for as long and often as possible, take care of your teeth daily, and attend preventative dental visits to minimize complications and potentially save money in the long run.
Brought to you by Smile Generation, a proud supporter of the American Diabetes Association®.