Diabetes is something that’s incredibly common in our society. It’s estimated that around 4 million people in the UK are currently diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. That’s 6% of the population, or 1 in 16 people.
So the odds are that you know someone with diabetes. You probably also know that there are some fairly common health concerns that go along with diabetes – everything from foot damage, skin conditions and eyesight problems to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage and higher risk of strokes. But there are some slightly smaller, everyday health issues you probably don’t know about – one of which involves teeth.
One of the lesser known symptoms of diabetes is dry mouth. It’s not fully understood, but the dry mouth appears to be caused by the high blood sugar level. People with diabetes also feel thirsty as their kidneys are working overtime to get rid of the excess sugar in the blood. Some medications for diabetes can also cause a dry mouth.
- Saliva in the mouth is required to help you break down your food, but to also keep your mouth moist and comfortable, and fight germs within your mouth
- Saliva also prevents bad breath, and contains proteins and minerals that protect tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay
- Having less saliva means you will have less of all those good properties (putting you at risk for tooth decay and disease), and your mouth will feel dry, stiff and uncomfortable
- You can fight dry mouth by drinking lots of water, chewing sugarless gum and including more crunchy foods into your diet, as these help to get the saliva going
- Click here to find out more about Saliva
Diabetes can take a fairly hefty toll on your body, and that includes your mouth. Particularly with Type 2 diabetes, the risk of tooth loss is a huge problem.
Studies have shown that diabetics:
- Lose twice as many teeth on average as those without the disease
- 1 in every 5 cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes.
This is caused by a number of things:
- Poor sugar control
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Nerve damage in the mouth
Diabetics need to make sure they are having regular dental appointments to catch problems before they can spiral and lead to total tooth loss.
Changes in Taste
If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, then you may have noticed a change in your sense of taste. Your favourite flavours might not be as rich as you remembered, or you might suddenly find you’ve lost your taste for the sweeter foods. It can be a disappointing symptom, but think of it as an opportunity to explore and experiment with different tastes, textures and spices. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favourite food! Just make sure not to add too much sugar, or else you risk cavities and poor blood sugar control.
Did you know that there are more bacteria in your mouth right now than there are people on the planet? Most of these are living on your teeth, tongue and in your saliva, but if they decide to make their home in your gums, you could have problems, including gum disease.
People with diabetes; especially those with poor sugar control; are 22% more at risk of developing periodontal disease. This chronic, inflammatory disease can destroy your gums, all the tissues holding your teeth in place and even your bones. And as with all infections, gum disease can cause your blood sugar to rise, making your diabetes even harder to control. This means that strict oral hygiene – including proper brushing, flossing and diet, is a must for diabetics.
At Appledore, we treat patients who are suffering from diabetes.
When you visit us we’ll ask you to fill in a short questionnaire, which helps us to understand your specific dental needs:
- If you tick ‘diabetes’, our dentists will spend time with you;
- answering your questions
- examining your oral health
- creating a tailored oral hygiene plan designed to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.
- extra visits with our hygienist may be recommended to help you to keep your mouth healthy
If you have diabetes and you lose your teeth, you may not be able to have dental implants if your diabetes is poorly controlled.