Dental health is often ignored in the perception of overall health, while issues as common as diabetes and smoking have a lot to add to dental problems.
Dental health is related to teeth, gums, tongue, and other parts of the mouth. Dental problems can influence our perception, self-confidence, and feeling of wellness. They can even interfere in our day to day activities like talking, chewing, tasting, and more. A healthy mouth is one that is free of infections, injuries, and other problems with teeth and gums. It is essential to acknowledge dental health as a part of overall health.
What Is Diabetes & How Does It Affect Our Mouth?
Diabetes, as we all know, is an increase in the levels of blood sugar, which is also known as blood glucose. This glucose is a source of energy in our body, insulin- a hormone secreted from the pancreas- converts the blood sugar into energy. During diabetes, this process is hampered. Glucose is present in saliva, and when diabetes is not controlled, glucose levels get increased in our body. They grow in saliva as well, which leads to the growth of harmful bacteria.
When we eat, these bacteria get mixed in our food and form a sticky layer on our teeth called plaque. Plaque even comes from food that is sticky and too sweet. Plaque is a condition caused by diabetes, and it is a root cause of many dental problems. Different types of dental diseases because of diabetes:
1. Tooth Decay/Cavities
Apart from teeth, gums, and tongue, your mouth is also a natural home for several types of bacteria. The sugars and starch from foods and beverages mixed with bacteria form a sticky layer on teeth called plaque. As plaque is acidic in nature, it attacks the surfaces of your teeth (enamel and dentin). This can lead to cavities and decay of tooth/teeth.
In the case of plaque, if it’s not treated in a short time, then it can reach your gums and harden upon them. The longer the plaque remains on the teeth, the more it irritates gingiva. Gingiva is the part of the gums that is around the base of teeth. Soon the gums start having a sort of small tears, and slowly they turn red, bleed, and become swollen. This is known as gingivitis. If not taken care of, they can last for a long time and worsen into periodontitis. That’s why gingivitis is also called early gum disease.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it causes periodontitis. It’s a severe gum infection that can damage jaw bone. The infection from gingivitis reaches to the deep parts of gum, and further to the jaw bone. The gums and jawbone get torn and, as a result, pull away from the teeth. Teeth get loose and can even fall out. The reason why periodontitis is severe in diabetes patients is that firstly the body can’t fight the bacteria as it could, and on the other hand, the healing also gets slower because of low insulin. This periodontitis is a long-lasting infection.
Further, as a side effect, it also causes bad breath. It affects daily life as teeth get so loose that even by just a hard bite, they get moved and can fallout. In some instances, even pus starts forming between the teeth and gums.
4. Thrush (Candidiasis)
It is a type of fungal infection that, if once caught, then it is hard for even a healthy body to control. As a result of a decreased ability to fight bacteria, people with diabetes are more likely to develop thrush. The signs of this disease are painful white or red patches inside your mouth. It can be on tongue, cheeks, gums, and at the roof of the mouth. If untreated, further, these patches can turn into sores.
5. Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
As a result of diabetes, some people might experience a lack of saliva. This condition is also known as dry mouth. As guessed, it can result in tooth decay and gum disease. Signs of it are dry feeling in your mouth, dry tongue, pain in the mouth, cracked lips, and mouth sores or infection due to dryness. It can cause problems in chewing, eating, swallowing, or talking.
6. Oral Burning
Oral burning is also called burning mouth syndrome (BMS); it is a painful and complicated condition that is often described as a burning, scalding, or tingling feeling in the mouth. The discomfort can/may affect the tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth (palate), or broad areas of your whole mouth. It can cause pain, dry mouth, or an altered taste in some cases. It is common in adults above 60 and with diabetes.
Apart from all this, we are well aware of the fact that diabetes also impairs our body’s healing mechanism. Most of these diseases and conditions, under normal circumstances, can be overcome by just proper dental hygiene or simple dental treatments. Due to diabetes, this doesn’t happen. In the case of some of them, the dentist might have to opt for an invasive procedure like surgery. Now, as diabetes can lead to infection in cuts made during surgery, or it doesn’t allow the body to heal fast or adequately, so this is also an added risk for the patient.
Tips By Dentists For Proper Care Of Your Teeth If You Have Diabetes
1. Control Diabetes: One of the most obvious tips is to control your diabetes. This can be done by having less sugary food and monitoring your levels of diabetes.
2. Brushing Twice A Day: As it is generally advised to brush your teeth twice a day if you have diabetes, you shall strictly follow it. For this, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and make sure that you are using a fluoride containing toothpaste. Avoid vigorous or harsh scrubbing, as it can irritate your gums in the long run.
3. Flossing: Most of the people don’t floss their teeth much, which is wrong. You should at least floss your teeth once a day. Flossing is necessary because it helps in clearing the plaque from the corners as well as between your teeth. People even get confused how to take care of their flosses as well.
4. Visit Your Dentist: Firstly you should share with your dentist that you are a patient of diabetes as well. In routine checkups, he/she will observe accordingly for certain signs. Even if you are experiencing a healthy mouth, visit your dentist for regular checkups for at least twice a year.
5. Be Alert: As your body is impaired to fight against the germs properly, you should always be alert and observant of your teeth, gums, and tongue. If there’s any redness, bleeding, or swelling, don’t wait to visit your dentist.
Having a healthy mouth is a lifestyle. Once you are aware that you have a condition like diabetes, you need to have extra efforts in dental care as well. Your mouth is the door to your body, and increased bacteria can travel down by breathing or swallowing. Then they can cause non-dental issues as well. Be observant of any abnormal changes in your mouth and be quick in consulting your dentist. Dental health shall be given equal importance as overall health for a smooth daily life.