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Whenever someone visits a dentist for the first time, he or she is always asked about having certain medical illnesses, such as diabetes. Have you wondered why?
Diabetes is one of the two most common lifestyle disorders, the second being high blood pressure. Teeth and gum health are linked to your overall body health and vice versa. Diabetes too has a major effect on the health of your gums and teeth. Moreover, it can also become a hindrance in certain dental treatments. Thus, maintaining proper oral hygiene is essential for people with diabetes.
How does diabetes affect the oral cavity?
Diabetes primarily leads to increased levels of sugar in the blood. In many ways, it endangers the oral hygiene. The main effects of diabetes on oral health are as follows:
Gum disease is a major concern in persons with diabetes. Increased sugar levels in the blood create a breeding ground for micro-organisms. Due to high sugar and triglycerides, there is accumulation of harmful proteins in the gum tissue, causing destructive inflammation of the gums. This makes the gums sore and red, and they bleed easily even on slight touching. If not attended to in a timely fashion, this can lead to further destruction involving the bone and causing tooth mobility and bone loss in the affected area.
In persons with diabetes, the accumulation of plaque and formation of tartar is also faster than others. Hence, they are more prone to periodontal disease, tooth loss, tooth mobility, sores, ulcers, and cavities. Research has shown that just as lack of diabetes control leads to increased gum diseases, poor gum condition can also worsen diabetes. It can turn into a vicious cycle that is hard to break if not attended to in time.
Dry mouth is seen in patients with uncontrolled diabetes, as well as in patients taking anti-diabetic medications regularly. High sugar levels reduce the flow of saliva in the mouth, leading to dryness. This increases the chances of dental cavities, as enough saliva is not present to flush out food particles stuck between the teeth.
Thrush refers to a fungal infection in the mouth (medically called as Candidiasis), commonly seen as a white or red patch in the mouth. With longstanding untreated patches, burning sensation might also be experienced by the patient. Due to high blood sugar levels in diabetes, the chances of developing infections increases. Diabetes, in combination with poor oral hygiene further increases the risk for oral candidiasis or thrush.
Poorly controlled diabetes can slow the healing after dental surgery or other dental procedures, because of reduced blood flow to the affected area. Chances of infection at the site of surgery increase due to increased levels of sugar in the blood.
It is recommended that you get your sugar levels assessed and under control before starting any procedure, for better prognosis and faster healing.
Considerations for a diabetic patient in a dental clinic
• If you have diabetes, you must inform the dentist about your sugar levels at the first visit itself. This allows the dentist to take necessary precautions.
• Always carry your insulin injection (with pen or syringe) when you are scheduled for any dental treatment.
• Always check your sugar levels before starting any treatment. If you have daily sittings, it is not necessary to check your blood sugar daily. However, you must check them once a week at least. They can be checked at home with the help of a glucometer.
• Take oral glucose along with you to avoid the risk of severe hypoglycaemia.
• Have a small snack and go to the clinic, as dental procedures are lengthy and one is often asked to refrain from eating immediately after a dental procedure.
• Follow the prescribed course of antibiotics and painkillers as advised by your dentist. Do not skip any dosage which might interfere with your dental treatment.
Diabetes can affect the quality of your gums and teeth, and poor gum health can, in turn, worsen your diabetes. Pay special attention to oral care along with your blood sugar and diet.
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