Did you know that people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing oral health problems? Diabetes is a leading cause of several major medical conditions (heart disease, kidney failure, blindness). Many people are not aware of how diabetes also impacts a person’s mouth, teeth and general oral health.
November 14th celebrates World Diabetes Day. This day is chosen as it marks the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin in 1922. World Diabetes Day is an awareness campaign designed to create awareness about diabetes, the risk factors associated with it, who is at risk, and what you can do to live a healthy life even with diabetes.
Diabetes & Oral Health
The link between these two factors is high blood sugar. When blood sugar is poorly controlled, there is an increased risk or problems developing in the mouth. Why? Uncontrolled diabetes weakens the white blood cells in your body. These blood cells are the body’s main defense against bacterial infections in the mouth.
Diabetes is the third most common chronic disease in children and adolescents. Oral health problems that develop in their younger years can worsen as they age, so it is important to be in control of their diabetes.
Controlling blood sugar will lower the risk of major organ complications related to diabetes as well as protect against problems in your mouth.
What Can Occur in Your Mouth with Uncontrolled Diabetes
Gingivitis & Periodontis: Diabetes can also cause blood vessels to thicken. This thickening means the flow of nutrients to your blood tissues is slowed down. It also causes waste products to slow down when exiting your body, including from the mouth.
When this slow down occurs, your body is less able to fight infections. Periodontis is a bacterial infection, so the risk of developing an infection or gum inflammation (gingivitis) goes up. A person with uncontrolled diabetes might experience frequent infections or severe gum disease.
Thrush: It’s not just for babies! Anyone who frequently takes antibiotics to fight infections is prone to developing thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue. This particular fungus thrives on high glucose levels in the saliva. Thus, a person with uncontrolled diabetes will have high glucose levels and naturally be more susceptible to developing thrush.
Thrush can then cause a burning sensation in the mouth or on the tongue. People who wear dentures are also more likely to develop thrush.
Dry Mouth: Diabetes can curb the production of saliva in your mouth, leaving you feeling thirsty all the time. Lower levels of saliva are dangerous because we rely on our saliva to help wash away food particles that can lead to cavities.
Dry mouth can also occur as a side effect from medications (for diabetes or other conditions) and due to higher blood sugar levels.
Take Charge Today
Your child’s pediatrician can provide the best health guidance for how to deal with their diabetes. By controlling their diabetes with healthy habits, good oral health will naturally follow.
Other things you can do to take charge of their oral health is to keep your little surfer on a routine of brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing once a day. Regular dental visits allow your pediatric dentist to review their mouth and oral health for any signs of problems.
Learn more about diabetes and how you can get involved by visiting www.WorldDiabetesDay.org.
If you have any questions about how diabetes can affect your little surfer’s oral health, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our board-certified pediatric dentists!
Two locations to serve you:
Richland: (509) 946-9999 www.Richland.SmileSurfers.com
Sumner: (253) 833-5137 www.Sumner.SmileSurfers.com