More than 1 in 10 Americans has some form of diabetes. This metabolic condition disrupts the body's regulation of glucose in the bloodstream, giving rise to health problems like slow wound healing, frequent infections and blindness—and it's the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. It can affect every aspect of your health including your teeth and gums.
Fortunately, people with diabetes can manage it through medication, diet and exercise. Even so, the disease could still have a profound effect on physical health. The mouth in particular becomes more susceptible to a number of oral conditions with diabetes.
In recognition of American Diabetes Month in November, here's how diabetes could put your oral health at risk for other diseases and what you can do about it.
Gum disease. Diabetics are at high risk for severe periodontal (gum) disease because of a characteristic shared by both conditions: inflammation. What is normally a healing response of the body to infection or trauma becomes destructive if it becomes chronic. Studies show that, due to their inflammation connection, diabetes can worsen gum disease, and gum disease can make it harder to bring diabetes under control.
Dry mouth. Chronic dry mouth is another possible consequence of diabetes that harms oral health. It's the result of the body not producing enough saliva. Because saliva supplies antigens to fight infection and neutralizes oral acid, which erodes tooth enamel, inadequate saliva increases the risk of both tooth decay and gum disease.
Thrush. Also known as oral candidiasis, thrush occurs when the fungus Candida albicans spreads along the inside surface of the mouth. This fungal infection can produce painful white lesions that make it difficult to eat or swallow. Complications from diabetes, including dry mouth and raised glucose levels in saliva, increase a diabetic's chances of developing thrush.
Implant complications. An implant's stability depends on the healing period after implant surgery when bone cells grow and adhere to its titanium surface. But because diabetics can experience slow wound healing, the bone may not fully develop around the implant and eventually causing it to fail. Fortunately, this is less of a problem if the patient has their diabetes under control.
So, what can you or someone you love with diabetes do to avoid these oral health pitfalls? For one, practicing daily brushing and flossing—and seeing your dentist on a regular basis—is paramount for reducing the risk of any dental disease. Additionally for diabetics, consistently keeping your condition under control will likewise lessen the impact it may have on your teeth and gums.