Diabetes and dental health: what you should know

Diabetes can affect dental health. We tell you the most frequent damages in the mouth and what you can do to prevent them.

Last update: November 18, 2021

Diabetes patients they may suffer from oral problems that alter their dental health. In particular, the high blood sugar levels that characterize this pathology cause damage to the entire body, including the oral cavity.

This chronic disease impairs the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. The excess of this substance in the blood causes damage to multiple organs of the body. Heart, kidney, vision and nervous system problems are some of the most frequent consequences of this disease.

Likewise, there is an alteration of the wound healing and healing processes and an increased risk of suffering infections. The mouth is no stranger to these tissue damage caused by excess sugar in the blood. Do you want to know more about it?

What is the relationship between diabetes and dental health?

The relationship between diabetes and damage to dental health is two-way. In both conditions the inflammatory processes are increased, which causes microvascular alterations in the tissues. Thus, the presence of one of the two conditions predisposes the development of the other or worsens the condition if it already exists.

People with certain oral problems, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease, are more likely to have diabetes than those with healthy gums. Secondly, those with systemic disease often have severe pyorrhea, which in turn make it difficult to control blood glucose.

Thus, having high blood glucose levels increases the chances of developing periodontal disease and, in the long term, teeth can be lost.

Another reason for oral damage is because uncontrolled diabetes blocks the action of white blood cells. These cells are the body’s main defense against infections that can take place in the mouth.

The situation worsens with high levels of glucose in saliva, since it favors the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth and, therefore, damages the health of the teeth and gums.

Having high blood sugar levels raises your risk for diseases like gingivitis, tooth decay, and periodontitis.

What dental health problems does diabetes cause?

Here are the dental health problems that occur most frequently in patients with diabetes.

  • Gingivitis: it is the inflammation of the gum tissue, which increases in size, turns intense red, bleeds and hurts. Weak white blood cells and vascular problems make it difficult for the gums to defend themselves against bacteria in the mouth, making it a frequent and severe problem.
  • Periodontitis: is the evolution of gingivitis. It affects the supporting tissues of the teeth. Deep inflammation and infection damage the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. In this way, the support of the teeth is affected, which can move and even fall.
  • Dry mouth: If diabetes is not controlled, it can decrease salivary flow, leading to dry mouth. Xerostomia not only causes discomfort to the patient, but also increases the risk of pain, ulcers, cavities, bad breath and infections.
  • Difficulty healing oral tissues: In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, wounds in the mouth caused by trauma or surgery heal with difficulty. Postoperative complications are quite common.
  • Oral candidiasis: it is an infection by a fungus that takes advantage of high sugar levels and a low immune response to proliferate. It usually manifests with ulcers or painful, whitish or red plaques on the oral mucosa. It is more common in patients who wear dentures or who take antibiotics frequently.
  • Cavities: bacteria in the mouth take advantage of carbohydrates in the diet and metabolize them; This generates an acid that demineralizes the hard tissues of the teeth.

Dental care in diabetic patients

People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from conditions that damage their dental health. For this reason, strictly follow certain healthy habits is essential to take care of the mouth. Here are some recommendations.

1. Control blood sugar levels

Most of the complications and tissue damage are caused by high blood sugar levels. For this reason, one of the best ways to avoid damage to dental health and the entire body is to try to keep blood glucose levels close to normal.

Take the test blood glucose levels according to medical indications, and laboratory tests that measure glycated hemoglobin, helps to know the levels of sugar in the blood. Ideally, take the medication prescribed by the professional, combining it with a proper diet and exercises.

2. Maintain adequate oral hygiene

A useful strategy to counteract the risk of suffering from diseases in the mouth is to avoid the accumulation of bacterial plaque. For this, oral hygiene plays a fundamental role.

It is recommended to clean the teeth and gums three times a day with a soft bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste. It is also necessary to supplement hygiene using dental floss and rinses..

In case of wearing dentures, taking care of their maintenance is of vital importance. Checking their correct fit in the mouth on a regular basis and cleaning them carefully helps prevent injuries and infections.

Removing them every night and cleaning them every day helps to keep them in good condition. Using effervescent tablets created for this purpose, once a week, helps prevent deterioration. It is also necessary to check that they do not move and that there are no lesions in the mucosa under or around the prosthesis.

3. Visit the dentist frequently

Going to the dentist frequently, at least twice a year, is essential to maintain dental health. The dentist may indicate to carry out checks that are closer to each other. With this, it manages to evaluate the condition of the teeth and gums to detect any damage that has occurred. In this way, you will be able to board in a timely manner.

Professional cleaning They will help remove tartar and keep your gums healthy. This procedure is very useful to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease, so common in diabetic patients.

After dental procedures, the person must comply with all the dentist’s instructions. As we have already mentioned, tissue healing is more difficult and slower when suffering from diabetes, and postoperative care is essential to avoid complications.

4. Inform the dentist of everything pertinent to the disease

When visiting the dentist, the diabetic patient must inform the professional about his condition. In addition, you must indicate if you take any medication, when you took it and the date and values ​​of the last laboratory tests.

It is useful to keep a list of all the medications that are consumed. With this, the dentist can use this information when prescribing another medication. Thus, interferences and interactions between drugs are avoided.

Among other things, it is pertinent to indicate if you have suffered episodes of hypoglycemia in the past, as they can be repeated. In these cases it is necessary to specify how often they occur and when was the last time one was suffered.

Ideally, provide the name and telephone number of the family doctor to the dentist so that he or she has this contact in case there are concerns for an interconsultation.

In certain cases it may be necessary to take antibiotics before a dental procedure, change meal times or the dose of medication. In that case, the management of the situation between both professionals is the ideal.

If blood sugar levels are not well controlled, only dental emergencies, such as acute infections, abscesses, or trauma, should be treated. Other treatments are postponed until blood glucose levels return to normal.

The dentist must be aware of the existence of diabetes. In addition, you must know the medications that are consumed for their control.

5. Avoid cigarettes

Diabetic patients who smoke are at increased risk for severe complications of the disease. Oral pathologies present more aggressively and with faster progress.

Those who suffer from periodontal disease are more likely to lose teeth, for example. For this reason, it is essential to stop smoking.

Deal with the situation

As we have detailed, diabetes is a disease that can put the dental health of those who suffer from it at risk. However, this is no reason to be discouraged.

With proper precautions and care, it is possible to keep teeth in good condition. Acting responsibly to limit blood glucose levels within normal limits helps prevent many of the complications in the mouth.

Paying special attention to dental hygiene and visiting the dentist frequently are other attitudes that help to take care of teeth. With the necessary efforts, having a healthy smile is possible.

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