Dr. Matthew Mangino
For the 26 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes each year, life can be very difficult. Diabetes affects all aspects of a person’s physical health and, if not managed properly, can lead to a host of other serious health problems.
In fact, persons suffering from diabetes are less resistant to infection and therefore are also at an increased risk of developing various oral diseases. The most common diseases include periodontal disease, gingivitis, salivary gland dysfunction, inflammatory skin disease, infections, delayed healing and taste impairment.
Diabetes’ patients may also suffer from other mouth ailments including thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth, which can also lead to ulcers, soreness, cavities and other infections.
Because diabetes weakens the body’s ability to fight bacteria, tissues and bones in the mouth are vulnerable to infection. The disease often causes individuals to produce high levels of glucose in their saliva, which then speeds the growth of bacteria in the mouth. As bacteria grow, tartar begins to build up above the gum line. If left untreated, this build up can lead to chronic mouth infections and inflammation.
Although, everyone should practice good oral hygiene habits, those living with diabetes should pay particular attention to changes in their mouth. It is imperative that diabetes patients schedule regular dental check-ups in order for their dentists to detect early stages of gum disease and other infections of the mouth.
Some signs to watch for include:*
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Gums that are pulling away from the teeth
- Pus that is produced between the teeth and gums when pressed
- Chronic bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Teeth that have become loose or have begun to separate
- Changes in the way an individual’s teeth fit together
- Changes in the fit of an individual’s partial dentures
The good news is that most of these problems are preventable through good oral health care habits. A healthy routine includes brushing twice daily and flossing at least once during the day. Patients might also consult their dentists about using an appropriate mouth rinse in order to more effectively prevent the growth of bacteria known to cause gum disease.
It’s also important that patients inform their dentists that they have been diagnosed with diabetes. They should make them aware of any prescription or over-the-counter medications they may be taking to control the disease.
Living with diabetes presents enough challenges without the added stress of oral infections and diseases. Taking control of an individual’s oral health will save time and money in the long run, while dramatically improving the quality of one’s life. Contact your physician and your dentist for more information.
* Source: American Dental Association, https://www.ada.org/sections/scienceAndResearch/pdfs/patient_18.pdf
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