Today, we know how closely oral health relates to overall health and well-being. For diabetics, this correlation is especially important.
Roughly 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and they face an increased risk of oral health complications. Diabetics are more likely to develop gingivitis as well as periodontitis, the more severe form of gum disease. And diabetes can interfere with healing and bone formation after oral surgery.
Why are people with diabetes prone to problems with their oral health? Is there anything diabetics can do to avoid complications?
Diabetics Are More Susceptible to Infection
Diabetes affects the body’s natural healing process, and people with this disease can take up to twice as long to recover after oral surgery. The prolonged healing period provides a wider window of opportunity for infection to set in the gums.
A gum infection, or periodontal abscess, isn’t the only type of infection related to diabetes.
Diabetics are also prone to contracting an oral fungal infection known as thrush. Thrush causes white patches on the tongue and throughout the mouth. Left untreated, this oral health problem can spread to — and cause damage in — other parts of the body.
Diabetes Medications Can Cause Oral Health Complications
Diabetes often causes an oral condition called dry mouth, in which the saliva glands aren’t working properly. To make matters worse, many diabetes medications can make dry mouth more likely.
So what’s the big deal about dry mouth? Can’t people just drink more water or use artificial saliva to keep the mouth wet? Yes, they can, but saliva does much more than simply moisten the mouth.
Without sufficient saliva flow in the mouth, it can be difficult to taste foods, swallow and speak. More important, saliva helps to protect the teeth and gums from decay and infection.
So as a result of these factors, diabetics face an increased risk of cavities and tooth decay. Left untreated, tooth decay can destroy the inside of the teeth, requiring repairs or even extractions.
Preventing Oral Health Complications Associated with Diabetes
With the proper care, diabetics can avoid many of the problems that commonly occur as a result of the disease.
First of all, because people with diabetes have special medical and dental challenges and needs, it is crucial to keep your dentist and oral surgeon informed of your medical condition. Diabetics must speak up about any medications they are taking and changes in their medical history or condition before scheduling dental or oral surgery procedures.
Preventive care is also crucial to avoiding serious oral health problems.
Regulating blood sugar levels is important, as poorly controlled diabetes is much more likely to lead to periodontal disease and infections. Diabetics must also be diligent about their daily oral hygiene habits and scheduling regular professional checkups and cleanings.
The professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah understands the complex nature of treating diabetic patients. We work diligently to ensure your ongoing health and well-being. Contact one of our convenient Salt Lake City area offices to schedule a consultation to discuss your oral health needs.