Diabetes & Your Smile
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 8.1 million people living with diabetes don’t even know they have it. These statistics are from the American Diabetes Association.
Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. All 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.
The Symptoms of Untreated 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 is encouraged to grow and multiply. If our sugar stays high, it may lead to gum disease, also known as periodontitis. You may have gum disease if you have:
- Gums that are swollen, sore, red and bleed regularly, or that pull away from your teeth creating a pocket. As shown the figure below.
When pockets are formed; the pocket fills with bacteria and then puss as the body tries to fight the infection. If this happens, gum surgery may be necessary to save your teeth. If nothing is done, the infection can go on to eat and make your jaw bone soft. The teeth may start to move and get loose. When this happens, your teeth may fall out or need to be pulled.
- Loose teeth
- Chronic bad breath can be caused by too much bacteria in your mouth
- An irregular bite or dentures that don’t fit well may indicate your jaw bone has shrunk
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. Here’s how:
- 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 of 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. Do you want to risk getting diabetes, heart disease, or even oral cancer because you did not see a dentist regularly, get adequate dental cleanings, brush twice a day or floss regularly?
It is less expensive to complete good oral health practices then possibly ending up with a life altering disease because you were too irresponsible to brush twice a day and floss regularly. Please make an appointment NOW if you do not have one scheduled and perform good oral health practices daily. Live Long and Keep Smiling!