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Diabetes and Oral Health Problems


People with diabetes are three to four times likely to have dental problems than people without diabetes, with a higher rate of more severe levels of gum infection and bone loss. In fact, periodontal disease is recognized as the sixth leading complication of diabetes.

How does diabetes affect your mouth?

Glucose, also called sugar, is constantly present in saliva – the clear liquid in the mouth that keeps it wet. When diabetes is poorly controlled, the high levels of glucose can cause harmful bacteria to grow. These bacteria get attached to old food particles to form a sticky, clear film called plaque. Different types of plaque can cause cavities, tooth decay, bad breath or gum disease.

What happens if you have plaque?

If not removed, plaque hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar makes it difficult to clean your teeth resulting in red, inflamed, swollen gums and bleeding gums – all of which are signs of gingivitis. When not treated, this condition can advance to a chronic inflammatory gum disease known as gingivitis. This oral problem, if left untreated, can damage the bones and soft tissues that support the teeth. It can also cause teeth to loosen and lead to teeth loss.

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What are the common oral health problems found in patients with diabetes?

Apart from gingivitis and gingivitis, people with diabetes are at a higher risk of:

Thrush – people with diabetes are also more likely to develop thrush or candidiasis, a condition caused by a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans. Thrush can cause sore red or white patches on your tongue, gums, on the upper part of your mouth or inside your cheeks. Sometimes, the patches can turn into open sores.

Dry mouth (xerostomia) – another condition that people with diabetes are prone to is dry mouth. A dry mouth can increase your risk of thrush, gum disease and tooth decay. You may also have cracked lips, dry and rough tongue, and problems eating, chewing and swallowing.

Burning mouth syndrome – this condition is characterized by long-lasting burning sensations inside the mouth. The pain may affect the palate, lips, tongue, gums, throat or even the entire mouth.

How can I take good care of my teeth and gums?

Below are ways to maintain good oral health:

Control your blood sugar levels – use medications as directed by your doctor, eat healthy meals and exercise more.

Brush at least twice daily – ideally in the morning, before bed and after meals and snacks. Also floss twice a day as it helps remove food particles between your teeth.

Schedule regular dental visit – visiting a dental office like Pure Dentistry every six months can help prevent damage to your teeth and gums. Dental visits include check-up, professional cleaning, and X-rays. Make sure to inform your dentist that you are diabetic and discuss any diabetes-related issues you may have.

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