Diabetes and Oral Health: What You Need to Know
If you have diabetes, you probably know that uncontrolled blood sugar levels can negatively affect various organs in your body, including the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes; however, did you know that inconsistent blood glucose levels can also affect your oral health?
Common Oral Health Issues Associated with Diabetes
It is not uncommon for people with uncontrolled diabetes to have difficulty healing following dental procedures and oral surgery. Healing ability can be compromised due to decreased blood flow to the treatment site.
Individuals who have diabetes and frequently take antibiotics are at an increased risk for developing a yeast infection (thrush) in the mouth. In addition, individuals who constantly wear dentures are more likely to develop a yeast infection as well. Yeast thrives when sugar levels are high in the saliva. Thrush is caused by an overproduction of Candida. Although Candida is a natural occurrence in the mouth, certain medications, illnesses and stress can disrupt the delicate balance within the mouth, killing off some of the microorganisms that keep Candida in check; thus, leading to the overproduction of yeast. A yeast infection usually causes a burning sensation on the tongue and in the mouth.
Diabetes can reduce the amount of saliva you produce. A dry mouth can cause ulcers, soreness, tooth decay and infections.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) is an infection of the bone and gum. If you are diabetic, you are at greater risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease. Furthermore, if you have diabetes and develop gum disease, it can lead to a more serious case of periodontal disease, as well as take you longer to heal. Gum disease may also make it more difficult for you to control your blood sugar levels.
Smoking and Diabetes Increases the Risk of Thrush and Periodontal Disease
Individuals who have diabetes and smoke significantly increase their risk of developing thrush and periodontal disease (up to 20 times more likely than non-smoking diabetics). Moreover, smoking impairs the flow of blood to the gums, making it challenging for the body to heal injured tissues.
The 4 Levels of Periodontal Disease
Level 1 – Gingivitis
At this level, bone loss is not an issue and the condition is reversible.
Good oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups and cleanings (at least twice a year).
Level 2 – Slight Periodontal Disease and Level 3 – Moderate Periodontal Disease
The infection is now destroying the bone that supports your teeth. Eliminating bacteria through good oral hygiene is not possible.
The gum tissue begins pulling away from the teeth. This creates pockets that allow bacteria to build up, which leads to an infection. As your body fights the harmful bacteria, the bone and tissue holding the teeth in place start breaking down. The pockets deepen and begin filling with pus. Once you reach this stage, you may need to have surgery to save your teeth. If not treated, the infection begins destroying the bone around the teeth. If the bones, tissue and gums supporting your teeth are destroyed, the teeth may begin to shift, loosen and/or fall out. Although the majority of people do not realize they have gingivitis, now that the disease has progressed, the symptoms are more evident.
- Pain upon chewing.
- Red, inflamed or bleeding gums.
- Poor alignment of the teeth.
- Sores inside the mouth.
- Pockets between the gums and teeth, or receding gums.
- Sensitive or loose teeth.
- Loss of teeth.
Deep cleaning through scaling and root planing to remove the bacteria deposited deep within the pockets.
Level 4 – Advanced Periodontal Disease
The bacteria continue to destroy your bone; thus, loosening your teeth even more. At this stage, the risk of losing teeth increases substantially. Periodontal abscesses are frequent occurrences now. Your gums bleed spontaneously and pus continues to drain. Severe halitosis (bad breath) is common.
To address the infection, periodontal laser therapy or periodontal surgery is necessary. These procedures are designed to clean out the deep pockets that are filled with the bacteria.
If left untreated, advanced periodontal disease causes:
- Spaces between the teeth.
- Increased cold sensitivity.
- Gum recession.
- Loose teeth.
- Shifting teeth.
- Extreme tooth loss (dentures).
- Bacteria can easily enter the bloodstream contributing to additional systemic health issues.
The Connection Between High Blood Sugar Levels and Periodontal Disease
Saliva contains glucose; therefore, if you have uncontrolled diabetes, the amount of glucose present in your saliva is elevated. We naturally have somewhere between 200 to 300 bacterial species in our mouths: Some of these bacteria are good and some of them are bad. Elevated glucose levels assist the harmful bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis and Treponema denticola by providing the substance necessary to produce the acid that combines with our saliva to form the soft, sticky film referred to as plaque.
The Dangers of Plaque
As time passes, plaque hardens. Once hardened, plaque is referred to as tartar. This tartar collects above the gum line, which makes brushing and cleaning between the teeth more difficult. As the tartar builds, the gums begin to swell, turn red and bleed easily, which are all signs of the condition gingivitis.
What You Can Do
Brush and floss daily to clean away the plaque before it hardens and becomes tartar. If you neglect to remove the plaque, the tartar builds up along the gum line. A vicious cycle begins as additional plaque forms over the tartar, hardens and continues the cycle. Once formed, the only way to remove tartar from your teeth is to have your teeth professionally cleaned. Even with brushing and flossing daily, you need to have your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year.
The dental professionals here at Briglia Dental Group are dedicated to helping our patients maintain their healthy teeth, as well as compassionately address all other dental issues as they arise. If you would like to speak with our dentist about issues you are experiencing with your gums, click to call us at 610-692-4440 or to schedule your appointment online!