The link between oral health and physical health has been shown repeatedly over the years. One of the most concerning relationships is between people with diabetes and people with poor oral health. We wanted to know more about how the two affect one another, so we set out to check in with a few dentists, including Port Washington Dentist Dr. Salem, to see what we really needed to know. This is what we learned.
Facts About Diabetes
Unfortunately, diabetes is not an uncommon illness. It is estimated that about 29 million people living in the United States have the disease, which rounds out to about nine people out of every 100. The disease isn’t going anywhere either as more people are diagnosed each year.
Diabetes, to put it in simple terms, is a disease that affects your body’s ability to process sugars. Through the process of digestion, all of the food that you eat is converted into various forms, including sugar, and then your body uses the nutrition to give you more energy.
There are two types of diabetes: Type I and Type II. Type I is often genetic. It is where your body cannot produce enough insulin. Insulin is a natural hormone that carries sugar from your blood throughout your body’s cells and it is essential for survival. Type II is more often an acquired disease and means that your body will stop reacting to insulin when it is introduced to it. Regardless of the type, you will get high blood sugar. When your body has too much blood sugar, your body’s organs will become damaged over time, including your kidneys, eyes, heart, and even your nervous system.
What Diabetes Does to Your Mouth
While we just explained that high blood sugar harms your internal organs, it also will do a number on your oral health. Some of the earliest symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes occur orally, so it is important to be one the lookout for any of the following symptoms:
- Dry Mouth: It is important to mention that dry mouth can be caused by a lot of different things, including certain medications. It is also a symptom of diabetes. Your mouth will have less saliva due to the high blood sugar. Saliva is your mouth’s natural cleaner so without it, you will be prone to decay and periodontal disease.
- Taste Differences: You might also notice that your ability to taste foot can go awry if you have diabetes. This is due to damage to your taste buds.
- Delayed Wound Healing: We have all bitten the inside of our cheek at one point or another. It is known that your mouth will heal quickly, so if you have an injury in your mouth that is not healing as well as it should be or as quickly as would be normal, you might need to be on the lookout for diabetes.
- Increased Infections: Diabetes will cause an increase in infections throughout your body, but your mouth might be more noticeable. Gingivitis is the case of irritated and bleeding gums, but periodontal disease is where the infection is travelling along the roots of your teeth.
More people who suffer with diabetes also suffer from periodontal disease, because of the issues with poorly controlled blood sugar. Sugar is your mouth’s nemesis in general, so if you have too much sugar in your blood, your teeth are going to be in bad shape. When you have periodontal disease, it can be even harder to control your blood sugar since your mouth will now be playing a part.
Around 1 in 5 diabetics have periodontal disease a well. Periodontal disease also contributes to heart disease, so really, you need to do all that you can do to keep your mouth healthy.
What to Do
Diabetes is hard, but you can help your oral health by controlling your blood sugar. If you can keep your blood levels in a healthy range, you might never have issues with periodontal disease.
The most important thing is maintain your regular dental checkups. Your dentist will be able to watch for warning signs and help keep your health as good as possible.