It is estimated that more than 20 million adults and children in the United States have some form of diabetes–14 million having been diagnosed with the disease and 6 million being unaware they have it. There are different types of the disease: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes, as well as prediabetes. Most Americans (around 90%) who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
What is Diabetes? Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by a high level of sugar in the blood resulting from low levels of the hormone called insulin. Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, is responsible for the transformation of sugar into energy, which will be used by cells of the human body. Typical symptoms of diabetes are excessive production of urine due to high level of glycaemia (sugar in the blood), thirst and increased intake of liquids to compensate the rise of urine, blurred vision, an unexplained weight loss and fatigue.
Diabetic individuals need to pay special attention to oral hygiene because of the risk factors inherent to the disease. The main oral complications of diabetes are infections and dry mouth. Together they can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and delayed healing after surgery.
When these problems are early diagnosed, it can help decrease most of these symptoms. But if you wait too long, some of these oral complications may be irreversible.
Dry mouth is a lack of saliva in the mouth, and in diabetic individuals is often directly related to the increased sugar in the saliva reducing the quantity of production of saliva. Dry mouth can lead to complications such as cavities- the reduction in saliva reduces the natural cleansing of the teeth. It's recommended to drink more water when you have dry mouth, but it's equally important to visit your dentist to ensure that everything is alright.
Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis), or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection that occurs around the gums that can eventually reach the fibres and bone that support teeth. If gum disease is not treated, your teeth can eventually start to move (dental mobility), and you can even lose them.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to periodontal disease, probably because they are more likely to develop infections and take longer to heal. If you do not control your diabetes, it will become more difficult to control and mitigate any damage to your gums.
It is very important to check the condition of your gums on a regular basis, and treat periodontal disease if you are diabetic. Dentists and periodontists also recommend a dental cleaning every three months rather than six months to remove plaque and tartar that affect the health of the gums, as well as a periodontal exam.
Hygiene and Dental Treatment
Because diabetes makes teeth and gums more susceptible to certain diseases, it is important to give special attention to dental hygiene. If you take care of your oral health it is possible to avoid or delay several complications of diabetes.
Here is a summary of advice offered to diabetics:
· You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, but preferably after every meal. You should also floss your teeth to complete the brushing by removing plaque and food particles that can remain between teeth and the surrounding gums. Because there is less saliva in the mouth, which normally contributes to a natural cleaning of teeth, a meticulous dental hygiene is therefore very important.
· Periodontal disease can reach an advanced level without necessarily feeling any kind of pain, and without your gums bleeding. Regular dental checkups, preferably every three months, are then recommended to detect any signs of gingivitis or periodontitis, but also dental caries.
· It is important during dental checkups to update your medical history, and notify the state of your diabetes. If you suffer from periodontal disease, it is important to inform your doctor about the status of the disease.
Dental health is so crucial that many insurance providers provide for additional dental cleaning for those individuals suffering from diabetes. If you have diabetes, we highly recommend dental cleanings every 3 to 6 months and a regular exam by our periodontists. Our Southfield periodontists are experts in identifying the signs of the impact of diabetes and will work with you to make sure that your smile stays happy and healthy.