When you head into the dentist for your regular six-month appointment, you expect to hear terms like fluoride, flossing, and xrays. But diabetes? Most people don’t expect a blood sugar condition to have anything to do with oral health.
Yet it does, much more than you realize! Type 2 diabetes and oral health are closely intertwined. Since diabetes develops gradually and on a spectrum, you may be vulnerable even without an official type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Here’s what you need to know about the connection between your mouth and diabetes so that you can prevent damage and enjoy a full, healthy smile for many years to come.
Nearly 10% of the U.S population has diabetes. That’s more than 30 million people who struggle to maintain balanced blood sugar levels on a regular basis.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body struggles to produce or use insulin, the hormone that transforms sugar into energy. Without the efficient action of insulin, glucose builds up in the blood and causes serious health complications.
When blood sugar remains high for too long, the body reacts in these ways:
- High levels of inflammation
- Weakened immune system
- Nutrients and oxygen unable to strengthen and energize injured cells
- White and red blood cells unable to travel to site of wounds
Unfortunately, it’s not just your lower body that suffers the side effects of diabetes; it’s also your mouth. Weak healing functions, rapidly reproducing bacteria, and untreated infection create the perfect storm for gum disease, tooth loss, and abscesses.
Do You Have Diabetes?
In addition to the 30 million Americans with diagnosed type 2 diabetes, nearly 90 million adults have early insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes. Though this stage of diabetes doesn’t always present symptoms, some common signs include the following:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Weight gain
If you ignore the warning signs of early insulin resistance, your next stop is a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. The consequences become worse with every passing day:
- Heart attack and stroke
- Nerve damage
- Vision problems
- Teeth and gum infections
- Kidney Damage
- Poor blood flow
- Slow and inefficient wound healing
Even severe insulin resistance can be successfully treated- and even reversed!- with healthier lifestyle habits.
Oral Health Complications Connected to Diabetes
As diabetes weakens your body, it also makes you more vulnerable to oral health complications like these.
Slow Healing Process
In a body unaffected by diabetes, every wound triggers a natural healing process that begins within minutes of the injury. Blood flows to nourish and oxygenate the injured tissue, thereby protecting underlying tissues from bacteria and accelerating the healing process.
Unfortunately, diabetes interrupts the body’s natural and efficient healing process, even inside the mouth. White blood cells become impaired and fail to eliminate the bacteria that causes infection and decay. Meanwhile, poor circulation prevents nutrient-rich red blood cells from nourishing gum tissues.
All of this is a recipe for widespread infection and periodontal disease within the mouth.
According to research, including a report in IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences, one in three people with diabetes also experience periodontal disease. This is likely due to reduced blood flow throughout the body. Without proper oxygen and nourishment, gum tissue becomes prone to infection.
Combined with the fact that diabetes stunts the immune system and makes it harder for the gums to heal, periodontal disease has an easy opportunity to take over. Chronic inflammation and rapidly reproducing bacteria lead to receding gums, loose and missing teeth, bone loss, and other serious side effects of periodontal disease.
Bad breath is also a hallmark of diabetes. Ketoacidosis, an acute complication of diabetes, causes a sweet, fruity odor to develop in the mouth. In fact, this symptom is so specific to diabetes that infrared breath analyzers can effectively identify prediabetes or early-stage diabetes.
Starting Protecting Yourself From Diabetes Now
The good news? Diabetes can be effectively managed and treated. With proper health measures and oral care habits, you can protect your smile and enjoy a full, active life.
Start by talking to your Colorado dentist to understand the connection between your mouth and diabetes. Only your dentist has the experience and training necessary to prevent and treat the dental complications of diabetes.
The team at Arvada Dental Center is committed to your whole health, and we’re here to help you enhance your quality of life while perfecting your smile. Call us today to schedule an appointment and learn more.