Our bodies are made of complex systems that work interconnectedly. When one aspect of your health is compromised, it can have cascading effects on other areas. One such relationship is the link between diabetes and oral health. Learn more about the various health complications exacerbated by diabetes and how to properly care for your teeth if you manage the condition.
The link between diabetes and tooth decay is multifaceted. High glucose levels in the blood increase sugar levels in saliva, creating an environment conducive to bacterial growth. Bacteria in plaque feed on sugar, producing acids that attack tooth enamel and promote decay. Additionally, diabetes weakens the body’s immune system, leaving you less protected during the early stages of tooth deterioration. Finally, individuals with diabetes and weakened immune systems take longer periods to recover from severe oral health complications.
Along with increased sugar levels, diabetes impacts saliva production in many different ways. For example, medical dry mouth (xerostomia) is common for individuals with diabetes as the result of decreased saliva stemming from elevated blood sugar. Without proper saliva production, the mouth becomes dry and uncomfortable. In extreme cases, individuals with xerostomia encounter various complications when chewing, talking, and swallowing. Furthermore, inadequate saliva increases your chances of developing cavities, and you should regularly check for distinct signs of periodontal disease.
Oral Inflammation and Infections
As mentioned before, an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth creates the ideal environment for severe health issues like gingivitis or periodontitis. But other oral complications individuals with diabetes face aren’t always as serious or noticeable. For example, puffy gums sometimes indicate elevated blood sugar levels, often leading to more significant tooth decay. However, oral inflammation is a common bodily reaction to an infection, so it’s equally likely that you are simply experiencing a dental complication not related to diabetes.
Dental Care Tips for Individuals With Diabetes
Recognizing the link between diabetes and oral health is just the first step in achieving optimal oral hygiene. It’s important to learn how you can better prevent these complications if you’re managing diabetes; proactive and consistent dental care should be a significant part of your diabetes management plan. Start by maintaining good blood glucose control since high sugar levels can contribute to oral problems. Incorporate regular brushing and flossing into your daily routine to remove plaque and reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Consider using a soft-bristle toothbrush to prevent gum damage and fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your tooth enamel. If you smoke, making an effort to quit can significantly improve your oral health. Regular dental check-ups—ideally every six months—are key for early detection of potential issues. Finally, inform your dentist about your diabetes diagnosis and any medications you’re taking.
There’s no denying the link between diabetes and oral health. Committing to better dental care and a low-sugar diet are two simple and effective ways to maintain your health and the perfect smile.