We have always associated diabetes with sugar, sweets and sometimes syringes, but the truth is there’s so much more to this chronic disease than just a “less-than-usual-sugar” diet.
Diabetes affects the body’s ability to process glucose (sugar). Too much glucose can lead to complications on one’s eyes, kidneys, heart and other parts of the body. It can also slow healing processes and lower one’s resistance to infections.
Glucose is also present in the saliva – and uncontrolled diabetes can facilitate harmful bacteria (plaque) in one’s saliva to grow.
Diabetics are at special risk for periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place. For those with high sugar, gum diseases can occur more often, be much more severe and take longer time to heal. Left untreated, gum diseases disease can lead to painful chewing difficulties and even tooth loss.
Xerostomia, better known as dry mouth, is a common symptom of undetected diabetes. This can cause soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay. Smoking and chewing tobacco make these problems worse.
People with diabetes are more prone to fungal infections because it compromises the body’s immune system. Symptoms of oral fungal infections (thrush) include painful sores and difficulty swallowing.
How will I know if I have mouth problems from diabetes?
Some of the first signs of gum disease include:
- Dry mouth
- Swollen, tender or bleeding gums.
- Pain in the mouth, face, or jaw that doesn’t go away
- Loose teeth
- Pain when chewing
- An altered sense of taste
- Dark spots or holes in your teeth
- Sores or ulcers that does not heal
Oftentimes, gum diseases show no signs at all. You may not know you have it until you have serious damage. Your best chance of detecting gum disease is visiting your dentist twice a year for checkup.
For those with diabetes, follow these steps to keep your mouth healthy:
- Control your blood glucose.
- Brush and floss every day.
- Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes. Tell your dentist if your dentures do not fit right, or if your gums are sore.
- Quit smoking. Smoking makes gum disease worse.
Spread the word and have a blessed World Diabetes Day!