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People with diabetes are at greater risk for dental problems and gum disease. Inadequate control of hyperglycemia can lead to an increased risk of infection and affect the ability to heal. It is time to look at the relationship between diabetes and oral health.
If you have diabetes, you should pay special attention to your oral health and tooth care, as well as to controlling your blood glucose levels. See your dentist regularly for tips on keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic but manageable disease in which the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood are very high. The first signs and symptoms of diabetes can appear in the mouth, so watching your oral health can also lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Diabetes affects the body's ability to process blood glucose due to decreased secretion of the hormone insulin or deficiency of its metabolic action. Without continuous and careful treatment, diabetes can lead to a buildup of sugars in the blood that increases the risk of complications.
Three main types of diabetes can develop: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
- Type I diabetes. Also known as juvenile diabetes, it is caused when the pancreas produces too low a level of insulin, or simply does not produce any. People with this type of diabetes are considered insulin-dependent and must take insulin injections at least once a day.
- Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a disorder in which the way the body takes in insulin is affected. Although the pancreas still produces insulin, the cells do not respond to it. It is usually treated by implementing a balanced diet, adapting lifestyle habits, and in some cases, with the help of medication.
- Gestational diabetes. It usually appears in some women during the fifth month of pregnancy and disappears after giving birth. It occurs when hormones in the placenta that help the fetus develop block the action of insulin and increase blood sugar levels. It is often controlled with proper, healthy eating and regular exercise, but the mother may also need insulin.
How does diabetes affect oral health?
Diabetes and oral health represent a combination that can lead to complications if the necessary measures are not taken. Diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infection and slows the healing process. If left uncontrolled, it can lead to the deterioration of leukocytes (white blood cells), the body's main defence against infection. For this reason, oral infections may become more severe in people with uncontrolled diabetes.
Diabetes can also decrease salivary flow and increase salivary glucose levels, making it the perfect setting for fungal infections such as candidiasis.
There is a need to strengthen the link between diabetes and oral health. Specialised monitoring in both cases must be regular and permanent to avoid undesirable consequences. The most common oral problems of patients with diabetes are
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Gum abscesses.
- Tooth decay.
- Fungal infections.
- Lichen planus.
- Mouth sores.
- Taste alterations.
- Dry and burning mouth (low saliva levels).
We will analyze the most common diseases on this list and see, through them, how a relationship between diabetes and oral health is established.
Diabetes and periodontal disease
Periodontal disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria found in the mouth. As this disease progresses, the integrity of the tissues that support and sustain the teeth is affected. In advanced stages, periodontal disease can cause painful and bleeding gums, painful chewing and even tooth loss.
Periodontitis is more common and requires more attention in people with uncontrolled blood glucose levels. The reason is that they generally have less resistance to infection, as well as less ability to heal.
Diabetes and cavities
With increasing blood glucose levels, people with diabetes may have a higher concentration of sugar in their saliva, as well as a very dry mouth. These conditions create an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, where, if daily oral hygiene is poor, it is very easy for bacterial plaque to build up and adhere to tooth surfaces, which can result in tooth decay.
Diabetes and oral fungal infections
Oral candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Sugary saliva", low resistance to infection and dry mouth can contribute to the easier development of oral candidiasis.
This condition usually manifests itself as white plaques on the inside of the cheeks or on the tongue, and can affect the upper part of the mouth and reach the gums, the tonsils or the back of the throat
Good oral hygiene and optimal blood glucose levels are required to successfully treat oral candidiasis. Your dentist may prescribe antifungal medications to treat this condition.
Diabetes and oral health are closely linked and both need to be addressed in order to maintain a healthy mouth and a healthy life.