The statistics surrounding diabetes is frightening
Did you know that over 29 million residents in the United States have diabetes? That is 9.3% of America’s population. Approximately 1.7 million new cases are diagnosed each year—and according to the American Diabetes Association, 8.1 million people living with diabetes aren’t aware that they are suffering from the disease.
Diabetes: What is it exactly?
Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. All the food you eat is turned to sugar and used for energy. In Type I diabetics, the body doesn’t make enough of the hormone, insulin. Insulin transports sugars through the blood to the cells that need it for energy. In Type II diabetics, the body stops responding to insulin. Both cases result in high blood sugar levels, which can cause systemic problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body. I will cover that in another Blog.
So what does this have to do with your smile? Let’s start by understanding the symptoms of diabetes and the roles it plays in your mouth.
Untreated Gum Disease and Diabetes
Insulin is extremely important because it carries the sugar in your body to cells for energy. When the sugar in your blood is high, bacteria will grow and multiply. If your sugar stays high, it may lead to gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Some of the common symptoms of gum disease are swollen, sore and regular bleeding gums that pull away from the teeth.
As gum disease persists pockets of infection in the gum tissue will form. These pockets fill with bacteria and puss as the body tries to fight the infection. If this happens, gum surgery may be necessary to save your teeth. If conditions aren’t treated the infection can and will progress to what’s known as a “soft jaw bone. The teeth may start to move and get loose. When this happens, your teeth may fall out or need to be pulled.
Warning Signs of Diabetes
The warning signs of diabetes affect every part of your body. After a blood test, you may be told by a doctor that you have high blood sugar. You may feel excessively thirsty or need to urinate a lot making you dehydrated. Weight loss and fatigue are other common symptoms. In severe cases, diabetes can make you drowsy or cause you to lose consciousness if your blood sugar falls too low.
If diabetes is left untreated, you are more prone to infections in your mouth.
- Diabetes may cause you to produce less saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry. Since saliva protects your teeth, you are a higher risk for cavities
- Your gums may get inflamed easily or bleed often (gingivitis)
- Foods that you remember tasted good may not taste the same
- Wounds may take longer to heal, allowing bacteria to infect the wound
- Diabetic patients have more sugar in their blood and that will feed the bacteria
Why Diabetic Patients Are More Prone to Gum Disease
People always have millions of tiny bacteria living in their mouth all the time. When these bacteria take up residence in your gums, you can end up with gum disease, clinically known as periodontitis. This inflammatory disease destroys the tissues holding your teeth and can even infect your jaw bone making it soft.
Gum disease is the most common dental disease. The Center for Disease Control reports that half of the adult population has gum disease. As a person ages, the control of their blood sugar decreases and their risk of gum disease increases. And if they have Diabetes, the risk becomes even greater. As with all infections, serious gum disease may cause blood sugar to rise. This makes diabetics more susceptible to infections since their control of the sugar in their blood is already challenged. Diabetics have a harder time fighting the bacteria invading the gums.
What Can We Do About It?
According to the Surgeon General, good oral health is an integral part of total body health. Practicing good oral health habits may be able to prevent very expensive life-altering damage to systems in your body. Avoid the risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, or even oral cancer by seeing a dentist regularly.
Live long and keep smiling!