The next time you go in for a routine cleaning, make sure diabetes is a part of the conversation. It may seem tricky—what does oral health have to do with diabetes? The two are actually connected in ways you might not expect.
Diabetes complications are well known in areas such as your heart, kidneys, eyes, and skin, but the lesser-known area affected by diabetes is your mouth.
Oral Complications with Diabetes
Having high blood glucose (blood sugar) over time can contribute to complications in your mouth, such as periodontal disease and dry mouth. Keep your blood glucose in range as often as possible to reduce your risk of complications.
Periodontal disease is an infection of your gums and bones that hold your teeth together. It can lead to moderate symptoms like bad breath, and serious symptoms like difficulties chewing and tooth loss.
Dry mouth is what it sounds like—your mouth becomes dry due to a lack of saliva. Dry mouth, along with general discomfort, can lead to thrush (a fungal infection that causes painful white patches), soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay.
How to Talk About Diabetes with Your Dentist
Here are some starting-off points to begin the conversation around diabetes and oral health with your dentist:
- First, let your dentist know you have diabetes (even prediabetes) and what kinds of medications or insulins you take to manage it. Do you exercise regularly? Eat diabetes-friendly meals? Is your diabetes well-managed overall?
- Ask what preventative steps you should take to avoid diabetes-related oral complications, especially during times when your diabetes may not be managed as well as usual.
- Ask your dentist to identify warning signs of the beginning stages of diabetes-related oral complications.
- If you are currently experiencing what you think may be a diabetes-related mouth complication, ask what you can do to treat it to improve your oral health.
Your mouth can suffer diabetes complications the same as your heart, kidneys, eyes, and skin—so don’t neglect the health of your mouth when caring for your diabetes. Even though it may not seem like it, your dentist should be a part of your diabetes care team. Lean on them for advice for how to prevent and treat diabetes-related oral complications and how to spot the warning signs of oncoming complications.