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Dental Health & Diabetes

Can Diabetes Worsen Gum Periodontal Disease (and vice versa)?

Diabetes can almost be classified as an epidemic in the United States, with a high number of existing cases and more people suffering from this ailment every year. It is wise to take extra precautions with your oral health if you have been diagnosed with the disease. Most people are unaware that being diabetic can have serious consequences to the condition of your teeth and gums, including the following:

  • Diabetes causes “dry mouth,” a syndrome involving decreased salivary flow. The lack of sufficient saliva significantly boosts the risk of tooth decay and caries (cavities).
  • High levels of blood sugar increase the sugars in human saliva also, making a nutrient-rich bath where harmful bacteria thrive. These bacteria attack the enamel and eat it away, eventually causing cavities.
  • Elevated blood sugar and salivary sugar also promote the growth of thrush, an oral fungus. Similarly, high levels of sugars make oral bacteria and fungi tougher and thus more difficult to eradicate with ordinary medicines.
  • Blood flow blockage due to diabetic thickening of the veins lessens delivery of nutrients and white blood cells to the teeth via the bloodstream. This weakens and exhausts the tissues there, making them vulnerable to gum disease and infections.
  • Oral injuries and surgical wounds take much longer to heal due to this lack of blood flow, and can become infected more readily also.

There is also a potential link the opposite direction, with inflammation and infection resulting from untreated periodontal disease making general diabetic symptoms worse. Though oral problems do not trigger diabetes, there is mounting evidence that they make it more intense and exacerbate symptoms that might otherwise be quite mild. The incidence and severity of gum disease in diabetics is much higher than it is in the general population. Research demonstrates that not only does poor dental hygiene cause worse diabetic complications and management problems, it also raises the incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung infections. Some of the steps to managing oral problems when you happen to be diabetic include:

  • Establishing good control over your blood glucose levels is the best way to prevent negative dental consequences from having diabetes. In short, being scrupulous about maintaining good treatment of your condition not only makes you more comfortable and safer, but also keeps problems from spreading to your mouth.
  • Dental appointments are best before noon for diabetics, due to lower levels of blood sugar at this time.
  • More frequent tooth cleanings are probably a good step for most diabetics, to keep the oral environment cleaner and lessen the risk of periodontal disease.

Medical researchers recommend increase efforts at dental hygiene and more frequent intervals for cleanings, with 3 to 4 months between visits being optimal for most patients. Shorter appointments are tolerated better due to lower stress levels. Emergency medications are available in most good dental offices as infections are more difficult to control. Be sure to inform your dentists of any change in your medical condition. Give us a call today at 630-858-8800 or make an appointment with Dr. Gibbs.

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