Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body transforms food into energy. According to the CDC, over 34 million Americans have a type of diabetes, but 1 in 5 of them do not know they have it. This November, we’re celebrating National Diabetes Awareness Month in hopes of bringing more attention to this health condition that affects the lives of millions of people every day.
Along with affecting the ability to properly convert food to energy, diabetes can lead to problems in your mouth, and increase your risk of periodontal (gum) disease. It can also affect your ability to heal quickly, which can interfere with recovery from some oral problems. It is important to fully understand how diabetes can affect your smile, and we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to do just that.
What is Diabetes?
Once you eat something it will go through a process of being broken down into sugars called glucose, which will then be released into your body’s bloodstream. This causes a rise in blood sugar that signals your pancreas to release insulin. This insulin acts like a key that lets the blood sugar into your cells for them to use as energy. Diabetes causes your body to either produce too little insulin, or not produce insulin as well as it should. This, in turn, will cause too much of the sugars to stay in your bloodstream, which can lead to serious health problems.
There are four main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your pancreas from making insulin. Symptoms develop quickly, and it is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. Type 1 diabetics must take insulin every day to survive.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin well and cannot keep its blood sugar at normal levels. Symptoms develop overtime, and it is usually diagnosed in adults. Type 2 diabetics can prevent or delay their symptoms with healthy lifestyle changes.
Prediabetes causes your blood sugars to be higher than normal, but not enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes increases your risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. You can take steps to reverse your prediabetes by following a CDC-approved lifestyle change program.
Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes and can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. It may also cause your baby to be born with a higher risk for health problems.
Diabetics are at a Higher Risk of Oral Health Problems
If diabetes is not under control, the high glucose levels in your saliva will help increase the growth rate of harmful bacteria, and in turn, plaque. This significant increase in plaque can lead to tooth decay, cavities, and bad breath. Research has shown that diabetics are also 3 to 4 times more likely to develop gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontal disease. These, in turn, will cause your blood sugars to rise, which can make your diabetes more difficult to keep under control.
Symptoms of Untreated Diabetes
It is entirely possible that you may have untreated diabetes, you just need to be looking for the warning signs. Diabetes can cause you to produce less saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry. Your gums may become inflamed and bleed, indicating gingivitis. You can have problems tasting food, or you may experience delayed wound healing. For children with diabetes, teeth erupting earlier than usual is typical.
If you have any of these symptoms, we first recommend seeing a dentist. They will be able to treat these problems. If you have multiple in conjunction with each other, along with extreme thirst, weight loss, fatigue, or other common symptoms associated with diabetes, we recommend seeing a doctor and getting tested.
Take Control of Your Dental Health
Treating gum disease can have a huge impact on keeping your diabetes under control. You can prevent gum disease and the progression of diabetes by following these easy tips. First, brush and floss at least twice daily. This is an important step for everyone to follow, but even more so if you want to be sure to keep potential gum disease in check. If you have dentures, retainers, or another mouth apparatus be sure to clean them daily. Doing so will prevent the spread of bacteria. Eating healthier foods helps to manage your blood sugars, which can fight off bacteria in your mouth. Finally, don’t forget to make sure to schedule regular teeth cleanings.
If you need to schedule a regular checkup, don’t hesitate to reach out to Clock Tower Dental! We strive to provide exemplary customer service and the highest quality dental care to all our patients. You’re sure to leave with a shining smile!