Grosse Pointe & Shelby Township


The Connection Between Diabetes & Dental Health Problems

Man testing blood sugar levels with a glucometer and test strip.

People who are diagnosed with diabetes understand many of the associated risks to their hearts, eyes and kidneys. However, your mouth and gums are also impacted by diabetes. This risk often goes undiscussed. The connection between diabetes and dental health is a serious one. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, or know someone who has, read on and learn about the risks and precautions to take to protect your teeth from the effects of diabetes.

How Diabetes Affects Your Dental Health

Good dental care is required to minimize your risks related to diabetes. While some of these signs and symptoms are not exclusively associated with diabetes, the disease greatly increases your chance to develop them. Symptoms may include:

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

While dry mouth is notable for having several causes, the connection between it and diabetes is clear. Dry mouth can both cause, or be caused by, high blood sugar. This is problematic because your mouth relies on saliva to protect and remineralize your teeth. Without it, tooth decay runs rampant. When that happens, your body increases blood sugar as part of its attempt to fight the infection.

Your blood sugar and tooth decay aren’t the only concerns when it comes to dry mouth. Your mouth and gums are sensitive, and without saliva to help, you greatly increase your risk of developing an infection in your mouth. Those with dry mouth tend to develop more sores in the mouth as well.

Gum Disease

For diabetes and dental health, one of the most serious threats is the increased risk of gum disease. The initial stages of gum disease are easier to treat, but as it progresses, severe periodontal disease can spur long-lasting health problems. Just like with dry mouth, the side-effects of diabetes’ damage to your blood vessels, your gums become vulnerable. This can both make it easier and faster for initial inflammation to turn into more serious periodontal disease.

If your blood sugar levels are not well-controlled, the glucose levels in your saliva can rise. Bacteria use this glucose to thrive. If you don’t keep up with your dental care routine, these bacteria will quickly turn into plaque. Like with dry mouth, this opens the two-way street of blood sugar issues leading to immune responses, which exacerbates further blood sugar issues.

Oral Thrush

The two most common causes of thrush are high levels of blood sugar and a compromised immune system. These two causes are primary issues for those living with diabetes. Diabetes also impacts your ability to heal – and damaged or irritated skin promote thrush.

Symptoms of thrush, while not necessarily life-threatening, are very uncomfortable to live with. Some of the symptoms your mouth may experience are:

  • Bitter taste
  • Bleeding
  • White-colored lesions
  • Soreness in your mouth and/or throat

Like most diabetes-related illnesses, thrush is more likely to develop when your diabetes isn’t being properly controlled.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

This unique condition leads to a burning pain in the mouth, most commonly in the tongue. It can be accompanied by a bitter taste or even loss of taste, along with a sensation of dry mouth. Most cases of burning mouth syndrome increase in intensity throughout the day, and subside later in the evening. While the condition rarely leads to any direct damage to the tongue or mouth, it can be incredibly painful or uncomfortable.

Burning mouth syndrome typically forms as a secondary condition – with dry mouth or thrush as the primary cause. Because those with diabetes are more likely to develop these primary issues, it also increases their risk to burning mouth syndrome.

Always Inform Your Dentist & Hygienist If You Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes, it’s essential that you notify your dentist and hygienist. For starters, even during basic procedures, it’s important that your dentist knows how to respond to potential issues like low blood sugar. If they aren’t aware of your diagnosis, it hinders their ability to quickly react.

You must also consider any medication you’re taking and inform your dentist, especially if you’re planning on more serious dental treatments. Your dentist should be aware of any medications you’re on.

The Best Ways to Protect Your Dental Health Against Diabetes

Take Your Daily Dental Care Seriously

It’s important for everyone to brush twice a day and use their preferred type of floss to remove food particles from between their teeth. Those living with diabetes must be even more careful not to let this routine fall by the wayside. If you begin to neglect your dental health, you could quickly develop the symptoms listed above, or even severe spikes in your blood sugar levels.

You should also keep an eye out for signs of gum disease, such as:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Receding gums
  • Loose teeth

Any of these symptoms could indicate gum disease. If you notice one or more symptoms, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. While the early stages of gum disease are easy to reverse when treated properly, advanced gum disease can be difficult.

Maintain Normal Blood Sugar

Diabetes and dental care go hand-in-hand. The unfortunate feedback loop of uncontrolled blood sugar causing dental issues, which lead to even more out of control blood sugar levels is dangerous for your health. The best way to reduce your risks is to stay on top of your blood sugar levels and practice healthy habits.

Don’t Skip Your Dental Checkups

A dental cleaning and examination every six months is one of the best ways to ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy. If you skip a dental checkup, you may give mild gum disease the chance it needs to develop into periodontitis. You might even loose permanent teeth! When you live with diabetes, vigilance is necessary for your well-being – which includes your dental health too.

Worried About Your Diabetes & Dental Health? Schedule an Appointment Today!

Pointe Dental Group has experienced dentists in Shelby Township and Grosse Pointe farms who can provide you with a complete examination, answer your questions, and discuss your treatment options. Schedule an appointment with us today! New patients can receive FREE comprehensive exam and consultation, plus a full panoramic x-ray with a paid cleaning procedure (a $200 value)!

Grosse Pointe Farms: (313) 881-2480

Shelby Township: (586) 803-8300

Be prepared for your dental appointment

Don’t miss a thing! Connect with us on Facebook

This entry was posted in General Dentistry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.