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The link between type 2 diabetes and oral health may not be obvious at first glance, but the influence of gum disease and other diabetes related complications on the general health of a diabetic deserves special consideration.
The inability of a diabetic to efficiently convert blood sugar into energy can cause any number of diabetes related complications, including blindness, heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and kidney disease.
If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you should also be aware that the American Diabetes Association has stated that type 2 diabetics are especially vulnerable to developing gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease that can even destroy bone.
Type 2 Diabetes and Your Oral Health
Type 2 diabetes can make it difficult for your body to control blood glucose levels and ward off bacterial infections that cause dental disease. People with diabetes are particularly susceptible to developing a dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush.
Dry mouth can lead to soreness, cavities, missing teeth, periodontal disease, mouth ulcers, oral infections and dental bleeding.
Research findings indicate that oral health disease correlates highly with elevated blood glucose levels. The higher your hemoglobin A1C result, a test that measures the average blood glucose level over a three-month period, the higher your risk of developing periodontal disease is destined to be.
As you might expect, type 2 diabetics that emphasize blood glucose level control, personal dental hygiene and regular professional dental care are more likely to avoid oral health problems.
Oral Health Disease Risk Factors
Aside from inadequate personal and professional dental care, there are a number of other factors that you should be aware of if you have type 2 diabetes. The importance of controlling blood glucose levels deserves additional emphasis.
Blood sugar control should serve as the cornerstone of any type 2 diabetes disease prevention strategy, including the prevention of oral health problems. This requires careful monitoring of blood glucose levels and the adoption of a diabetes friendly diet and lifestyle.
Smoking is a risk factor for developing oral health problems even if you don’t have type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, the possibility of developing serious oral disease is significantly higher for the type 2 diabetes population.
Needless to say, eliminating smoking and relying on a dental care professional to treat potential oral health care problems during the early stages of the disease process is highly recommended.
One of the leading causes of dry mouth is medication. The National Institutes of Health has identified no less than 400 medications that may cause dry mouth. The long list includes medications commonly prescribed to type 2 diabetics.
These medications are typically prescribed for the purpose of alleviating diabetes related complications such as neuropathy and nerve pain. Make sure you ask your doctor whether your medications are likely to cause dry mouth.
Your dentist may even prescribe an oral rinse to reduce symptoms. Sugar free lozenges can also be helpful.
Although you are encouraged to watch carefully for symptoms of gum disease and other oral health problems, the absence of obvious symptoms doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear.
Diabetes related gum disease can be difficult to detect. That’s why you should visit your dentist on a regular basis.
Some of the more obvious symptoms of dental disease are:
- bleeding gums after flossing or brushing
- habitual bad breath
- changes in the alignment of your teeth
- receding gums pulling away from your teeth
- red or swollen gums
- loose permanent teeth
Dental Disease Prevention
Blood glucose monitoring and control is always the best way to prevent diabetes related complications. You should speak with your doctor if you experience difficulty maintaining optimal blood glucose control.
It may be necessary to alter your diet, medication or insulin. Fortunately, there are a growing number of natural options available to diabetics to help manage diabetes.
Comprehensive dental care for diabetics should always include regular flossing, brushing and dental checkups. This may involve more than the two standard dental appointments recommended for people without diabetes.
Make certain that your dentist is aware that you have diabetes, and schedule a special appointment if you notice any of the telltale signs of dental disease.
Inspect your mouth thoroughly for abnormalities at least monthly to discover bleeding, white patches or dry areas.
If you’re experiencing difficulty keeping your blood glucose level stable, it’s recommended that you postpone your dental appointment until you consult your doctor.
Unstable blood glucose levels can make you vulnerable to infection after undergoing a dental procedure.
Treating Dental Disease
Treating diabetes related dental disease depends on the nature and severity of the condition. A dental procedure known as scaling and root planing, a non-surgical method for deep-cleaning and removing tartar, is frequently employed to treat periodontal disease.
Antibiotic medications may also be prescribed to prevent or eliminate infection.
Periodontitis is a severe stage of gum disease. If you are diagnosed with periodontitis, it means that pockets have formed between your gums and teeth. The deep pockets provide germs with an ideal environment to multiply and promote the buildup of pus.
Gum surgery may be required to salvage your permanent teeth. The infection will destroy the bone in which your teeth are embedded if nothing is done. The final result will be loose and lost teeth. Your teeth may fall out or need to be pulled. Yikes.
Diabetes Related Disease
It is estimated that approximately 30 million Americans have diabetes. Countless others are considered to be pre-diabetic. A growing number of diabetes related diseases, including gum and other forms of dental disease, have been linked to type 2 diabetes.
Among the more serious diabetes related complications are stroke, heart disease, nerve damage and kidney disease.
While gum disease may appear to be less serious than heart and kidney disease, there is evidence that gum disease may actually contribute to the severity and progression of type 2 diabetes.
While it’s true that type 2 diabetes promotes gum disease, it’s also true that gum disease increases the severity of type 2 diabetes. Neither controlling blood glucose levels nor maintaining excellent oral health habits is optional. A dynamic immune system and the ability to fight infection are crucial.
Good oral health care, like diet, exercise and sleep, is an invaluable tool that anyone can use to fight the incidence of disease.
If you have type 2 diabetes, oral health care, along with blood glucose control, is a vital component of your ongoing determination to successfully manage diabetes.
If you happen to wear dentures, make sure you clean them thoroughly daily to avoid the buildup of harmful bacteria.
People with diabetes have special needs. Your dentist and hygienist have received advanced training to meet the special needs of people with type 2 diabetes.
Developing an enduring relationship with a team of dental professionals is a reliable way to prevent diabetes related complications. It will pay big dividends if you keep your dental care specialists informed about your current state of health or changes in medication protocol.
Type 2 diabetes and oral health go together like good health and an abundant life, but only when you follow the recommended health guidelines.
It’s good to know that you can have healthy teeth and gums for the rest of your life. That way you’ll be sure to enjoy the diabetes friendly diet and natural lifestyle choices that you’ve been adopting lately.
Now it’s time to celebrate with a shopping spree. Buy yourself a high-quality toothbrush, several spools of dental floss and don’t forget to send your dentist a holiday card this year.