We’re all susceptible to tooth decay and other oral health problems, those with diabetes, however, face a greater risk for complications. About one-third of Canadians are already living with diabetes or are prediabetic but those numbers are expected to continue rising over the next few years. Diabetes Canada researchers are warning that millennials and other young generations have a 50% chance of developing diabetes one day.
Since these numbers are astounding and show the commonality it’s becoming, it’s important to learn how diabetes can affect your oral health.
A LITTLE ABOUT DIABETES
Diabetics are not able to properly process food to use as energy. They experience difficulties producing insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) or are unable to properly use their insulin. We need insulin to regulate our blood sugar, too much can damage our organs, blood vessels, and nerves.
A common myth about diabetes is that there are only two types; there are, however, three main types we need to be concerned about, Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes.
Type 1 is most often diagnosed in kids. It’s a problem in the pancreas, preventing diabetics from producing insulin. Only 10% of those diagnosed with diabetes have type 1.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common and is usually developed in adulthood. The pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body can’t properly use the insulin that is produced.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition, only affecting 2%-4% of pregnant women. While temporary, it’s a sign that both mother and child are at risk for developing it permanently.
THE EFFECT OF DIABETES ON ORAL HEALTH
For years we have recognized the research connecting your oral health to other diseases in the body. Bacteria from gums have easy access to the bloodstream and our airways, allowing the bacteria to travel throughout, and cause problems in the body.
For diabetics, oral infections make it difficult to manage their blood sugar levels. The higher the blood sugar, the higher risk of:
- FUNGAL INFECTIONS. Yeast can appear as lesions on the skin and in the mouth and throat.
- DRY MOUTH. Uncontrolled diabetes decreases the saliva flow causing tooth decay and gum disease.
- GUM DISEASE. A chronic bacterial infection that affects the gum tissue and bones that support our teeth.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to take your condition and oral care seriously. To make it a little easier, we’ve outlined a five-step plan that will help…
- MAKE A COMMITMENT TO MANAGE YOUR DIABETES: Your blood sugar levels should stay within the target range, which will decrease your odds of developing gum disease.
- VISIT YOUR DENTIST REGULARLY: During your cleanings, the hygienist can assess your teeth and gums and the cleaning will reduce your risk of developing tartar and plaque. Just remember to schedule your appointments in the morning when glucose levels are at their highest.
- STAY AWAY FROM SMOKING OR TOBACCO PRODUCTS: Tobacco seriously increases your risk of complications from diabetes and gum disease.
- WATCH FOR EARLY SIGNS OF GUM DISEASE: If your gums are very red, swollen, or bleeding, make an appointment for your hygienist to check it out and offer solutions.
- MAINTAIN PROPER ORAL HYGIENE: This means brushing twice a day (with a soft toothbrush). Flossing once a day and scraping your tongue daily as well.