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. Today, we wanted to explore how diabetes can affect your oral health, and how you can protect it.
One of the lesser known symptoms of diabetes is dry mouth. Studies done by the ADA have shown that people with diabetes produce less saliva than those who don’t. This is why doctors use feelings of thirst as a part of the requirement for a diabetes diagnosis. Saliva is designed 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. So overall, it’s important stuff. Having less of it 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. Fight dry mouth by drinking lots of water, chewing sugarless gum and including more crunchy foods into your diet, as these really get the saliva going.
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, and 1 in every 5 cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes. This is caused by a number of things, from poor sugar control to gum disease, tooth decay, or even nerve damage to the mouth area. Diabetics need to make sure they are having regular dental care 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 much more at risk of developing periodontal disease (22% more, in fact). 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 already treat patients who are suffering from diabetes. When you visit us, we’ll ask you to fill in a short questionnaire, which helps us understand your specific dental needs. If you tick ‘diabetes’, our dentists will spend time with you, answering questions, examining your oral health and creating a tailored oral hygiene plan designed to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, for as long as possible. If you have diabetes and have any questions or concerns, please just get in touch with us today.