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Diabetes: Teething problem for oral health

Rhonita Patnaik
Filed on August 27, 2020 | Last updated on August 31, 2020 at 12.06 pm

It is important to care for your dental well-being and control your blood glucose levels to prevent gum disease

International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that there are 463 million adults worldwide are living with diabetes. And it remains one of the leading causes of deaths in the world.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may know that the disease comes with alarming complications such as stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. It is also an important cause of blindness and amputation. Did you know that diabetics are also at special risk for periodontal or gum disease?

During the times of Covid-19, staying healthy during a pandemic doesn't solely mean avoiding infection. It means focusing on the entire body to keep your immune system strong. When you think about health, you probably don't think of your oral health first. Many of us think about our teeth the same way we think about our nails or hair. just look at all of the whitening advertisements on social media! Dental health doesn't seem to hold the same weight as our medical health. The reality is, your oral health has downstream effects on virtually every other system in the body. That's why it's so important to shift your mindset to prioritising oral health, especially when staying healthy is (and should always be) your number one goal.

Your oral health offers clues to your overall health - teeth and gum problems impact the rest of your body. The body's natural defenses and good oral health care normally keep bacteria under control. However, without proper hygiene, bacteria that builds up between the tooth and gums can enter into the bloodstream whenever your gums bleed and travel throughout your body, in turn causing serious health problems.

How are diabetes and gum disease related?

Diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infection and slows down healing process. This is why oral infections tend to be more severe in people with diabetes. Moreover, people with uncontrolled diabetes tend to have more oral health problems. This is because uncontrolled diabetes impairs leukocytes (white blood cells), the body's primary defense against infections. Diabetes also decreases salivary flow and increase salivary glucose levels - the perfect setting for fungal infections such as thrush. If you are living with diabetes, you need to pay particular attention to your oral health and dental care, as well as controlling your blood glucose levels. Visit your dentist regularly for advice about how to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Additional problems

Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) - a painful and often frustrating condition that may affect the tongue, the roof of the mouth, the gums, the inside of the, cheeks and the back of the mouth or throat. Also called "burning tongue (or lips) syndrome," "scalded mouth syndrome", it is often described as a burning sensation in the tongue, lips, palate or throughout the mouth.

Dry mouth (xerostamia) - Diabetes can reduce saliva flow which results in dry mouth. Dry mouth can further lead to soreness, ulcers, infections and tooth decay.

Thrush - an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth. Thrush produces white patches in the mouth that could become sore and ulcerous. It may attack the tongue and cause difficulty in swallowing and compromise your ability to taste.

Poor healing of oral tissues - People with diabetes do not heal quickly after oral surgery or other dental procedures because blood flow to the treatment site can be impaired.

Early signs of gum disease
.    Bleeding gums when you brush or floss.
.    Red, swollen or tender gums
.    Gums that have pulled away from teeth
.    Pus between the teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
.    Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other
.    Bad breath
.    Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
.    Changes in the fit of your dentures or bridges

Prevent dental problems
.    Follow your doctor's instructions to keep your blood sugar level within your target range.
.    Take good care of your teeth and gums. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day. Floss daily. You may also ask your dentist if you need to use a mouthwash.
.    If you wear dentures, remove them and clean them daily.
.    Visit your dentist regularly and be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
.    Do not smoke. People with diabetes who smoke are at even a greater risk - up to 20 times more likely than non-smokers.

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