Diabetes can decrease the production of saliva, leading to a condition known as dry mouth. Dry mouth may lead to tooth decay and painful ulcers. Chronic dry mouth, plus the body’s lowered resistance to infection, increases your risk of periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Periodontal disease is also shown to increase blood glucose levels.
Thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth. Uncontrolled diabetes may cause sugar levels in your saliva to increase and thrush to develop. Thrush typically starts with white patches on the inside of the mouth. The infection can cause painful sores or even difficulty swallowing if not treated.
Diabetes may cause you to heal more slowly after dental surgery. Slower healing may also make you more prone to post-surgical infection. Make sure your dentist is aware of your condition before undergoing any major dental procedure. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to reduce your risk of infection. You should also try to control your blood sugar levels before, during, and after surgery to promote faster healing.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommends taking the following steps to protect your oral health if you have diabetes:
- Control your blood sugar to reduce your risk of gum disease and promote faster healing.
- Practice good dental hygiene by brushing and flossing every day. Clean dentures daily and avoid sleeping in them.
- Have regular dental checkups. Make sure your dentist is aware of your diabetes. You should try to schedule your dental appointment in the morning since blood sugar levels are more likely to be under better control at that time.
- Stop smoking. Smoking promotes gum disease. It also decreases blood flow to the gums which slows down the healing process.
You should see your dentist immediately if you have any of the following warning signs of a serious oral health problem:
- Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
- Red, swollen, or painful gums.
- Gums that are visibly pulling away from your teeth
- Poorly fitting partials or dentures
- White, painful spots on the inside of your mouth
- Sores along the inside of the mouth or gums due to poorly fitting dentures or other dental appliances
- Loose, separating, or visibly damaged teeth
- Changes in the way teeth come together
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- A persistent bad taste in your mouth
Your dentist and hygienist should be a part of your overall diabetes management team. Make sure they are aware of our current treatment regimen and level of diabetes control. By following good dental hygiene practices and keeping glucose in check, you can prevent diabetes from affecting your oral health.