Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar. Another name for your blood sugar is glucose, which is vital to your overall health. Glucose is a great source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. Additionally, it’s your brain’s main source of fuel.
The underlying cause of diabetes varies by type. But no matter what type of diabetes you have, it leads to excess sugar in your blood. If this occurs, health problems can arise. One that’s prevalent but often overlooked is problems managing your dental health.
How does diabetes impact your oral health?
If your blood sugar is poorly controlled, oral health problems are more likely to develop. This is because uncontrolled diabetes weakens your white blood cells, which are your body’s main defense against bacterial infections that can occur in your mouth.
Studies have shown that controlling blood sugar levels lowers the risk of major organ complications because of diabetes. This includes eye, heart, and nerve damage. Additionally, there are several oral health problems diabetes can cause and contribute to.
Dry mouth: Uncontrolled diabetes can decrease saliva flow, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth can further lead to soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay.
Gingivitis: Besides weakening your white blood cells, another complication of diabetes is that it causes your blood vessels to thicken. As a result, the flow of nutrients is slowed to rid your body of waste products and bacteria—including your mouth. When this combination of events occurs, your body loses its ability to fight infections. Since gum (periodontal) disease is a bacterial infection, people with uncontrolled diabetes might experience more frequent and more severe gum disease.
Open wounds: People with uncontrolled diabetes don’t heal quickly after oral surgery or other dental procedures. This occurs as a result of the blood flow to the treatment site being damaged. It’s much harder for your body to heal itself, even if it’s just a small open wound.
Thrush: If you have diabetes and you’re taking antibiotics to fight various infections, you’re especially prone to developing a fungal infection of your mouth and tongue. The fungus thrives on the high glucose levels in the saliva of those who are diabetic. Additionally, if you wear dentures, they can cause a fungal infection. Finally, as a result of thrush, some people will experience a burning in their mouth or tongue.
People with diabetes who smoke are at an even higher risk—up to 20 times more likely than non-smokers to develop thrush and periodontal disease. Smoking can also impair blood flow to your gums, which can affect wound healing in the tissue area.
Make an Appointment
If you have diabetes, or you’re at risk for diabetes, it’s even more important for you to make sure you’re seeing us once every six months. We’ll perform a thorough oral health screening. If you’re due for an appointment, call (318) 498-5011 or request an appointment online.
Dr. Finley is among the 6% of dentists in the United States with a fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry. He also is a fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). His expertise is rare–fewer than 30 dentists in the entire world have achieved both fellowships. Dr. Finley is also a five-time winner of the annual AACD Smile Gallery. Since 1985, he’s been treating every patient like a member of our own family. We serve the communities of Monroe, West Monroe, Ouachita Parish, Union Parish, Brownsville-Bawcomville, Claiborne, and surrounding areas.