If you have been following our blog for awhile, then you probably know that your oral and overall health are closely related, and that problems with one can cause problems with the other. Since your oral and overall health are so closely related, it is important to discuss your medical history with your dentist during regular exams. This is because certain medical conditions can increase your risk of dental issues and vice versa.
One common medical condition that can have a dramatic effect on your oral health is diabetes. Diabetes is characterized by an inability to respond or produce the hormone insulin. Insulin is used by the body to metabolize the sugars from foods into usable energy. With type I diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, while with type II diabetes, the body no longer responds to insulin. In both cases, this can result in high blood sugar levels.
A variety of problems can develop as a result of elevated blood sugar. These problems can affect various parts of the body, including the oral cavity. If these problems are not managed, then they may eventually lead to tooth loss. Here are some of the oral health problems associated with diabetes that can increase the risk of tooth loss:
Xerostomia, more commonly known as dry mouth, occurs when the mouth is unable to produce an adequate amount of saliva. This can happen as a result of diabetes, as well as certain medications. Since saliva is important for keeping the mouth clean and regulating pH levels, a decrease in saliva can cause an increase in bacteria and acidity, both of which increase the risk of tooth decay. To combat dry mouth, it is recommended to drink water frequently and stimulate saliva production by sucking on sugarless candies. You should also speak with your dentist about using a mouthwash formulated for people with dry mouth.
Gum disease is another oral health complication associated with diabetes. Gum disease occurs when excess bacteria accumulate along the gum line, causing the gums to become inflamed. People who don’t regulate their blood sugar are more likely to suffer from severe gum disease, since the bacteria responsible for gum disease feed on sugars. As gum disease advances, it can eventually cause the underlying jaw bone and connective structures to deteriorate. When this happens, the teeth will become lost and may fall out or need to be extracted.
Another complication of diabetes caused by high blood sugar levels is delayed healing. With diabetes, healing can take longer because high blood sugar levels prevent nutrients and oxygen from energizing the cells, decreases the efficiency of your immune system, and increases the amount of cellular inflammation. As a result, oral issues such as cold sores and gum disease can take longer to heal. It will also take longer to heal from certain dental procedures such as extractions, gum grafts, or having dental implants placed.
Increased Risk of Infections
As mentioned above, your blood sugar levels directly affect the effectiveness of your immune system. This means that in addition to slowing down the healing process, the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can also increase the risk of developing infections. One common oral infection seen in people with diabetes is oral thrush, which is a fungal infection that causes a white coating to form on the tongue and cheeks. Oral thrush is more likely to occur with high blood sugar levels, since the fungi feeds on sugars. It is also more likely to occur in individuals who wear dentures.
High blood sugar levels in the blood can also reduce your ability to taste food. This is because the high amounts of sugar in your blood can cause a permanent sweet taste in your mouth, which distorts the way foods taste. Ironically, high blood sugar levels can also prevent you from being able to taste the sweetness in certain foods.
Dr. Sadati possesses extensive experience in all aspects of advanced restorative dentistry, with an emphasis in cosmetic and implant dentistry. He has attained Accredited Fellow status in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most rigorous, demanding credentialing process in the world. He is the only AACD Accredited Fellow in South Florida.