Diabetes and Oral Health
November is National Diabetes Month, a time where America focuses directly on the disease that plagues over 29 million Americans. According to the American Diabetes Association, that’s about 9.3% of the entire population. So what do diabetes and oral health have in common?
Diabetes, in its simplest form, is a disease that affects your body’s ability to process sugar. No, not the sugar you find next to the flour and salt in the kitchen. This is the sugar that our body uses for energy, also known as glucose. Right about now you should be having flashbacks to 10th-grade Biology. Don’t worry; we’re not going to test you on this. For type one diabetes, the body’s pancreas produces little to no insulin, the hormone that turns sugar into energy. This type is temporarily treated by insulin injections two to three times a day. Since sugar intake is affected by so many factors (food, stress, emotions, etc.) the challenge with type one diabetes is knowing precisely how much insulin to take. For example, off the top of your head do you know how much sugar is in a small banana? About 14 grams. Your next insulin injection isn’t for another two hours, so by the time you inject you’ll sugar levels would have risen. Don’t forget to factor in your walk to work, and that coffee you grabbed before you left the house. Do you see how tricky it is? Too much insulin and your body will burn too much glucose, causing your blood sugar to drop to a dangerously low level. Too little and you won’t have enough energy, causing your sugar levels to skyrocket.
For type two diabetes, your body stops responding to insulin completely. Insulin is a key that opens blood cells, allowing energy to enter. With type two, the insulin is unable to open the blood cells, access completely denied. This type is most commonly associated with a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Typically type two develops after the age of 35, but according to the Diabetes Research Institute, an alarming number of young people are developing this disease, with cases as early as three years old.
All cases of diabetes have the possibility of severely damaging parts of your body. Irregular blood sugar can result in the damage of eyes, nerves, kidneys, the heart, and surprisingly teeth.
As you know, everything in your body is correlated. High blood sugar also prevents your mouth from creating saliva. Saliva, besides increasing when you see that juicy cheeseburger, helps protect your teeth. No saliva = no protection. No protection means you’re more susceptible to problems such as infections and cavities. Another side effect of Diabetes is Gingivitis, a condition that causes your gums to become inflamed and bleed. Gingivitis also causes wounds in the mouth to heal much slower, so that canker sore on the outside of your tongue is going to be there for a while.
One of the biggest concerns for patients with diabetes, however, is periodontal disease. An astounding 22% of people with living with diabetes also have periodontal disease. If left untreated, this ruthless disease can destroy your gums, the tissues inside your mouth, and eventually find its way to your teeth. Since diabetics struggle with sugar control, their gums start to deteriorate, leaving them susceptible to long-term infections.
So, what can you do? The ADA recommends five practices you can do to avoid disease related to diabetes and oral health.
- 1. To your best ability, try to control your sugar levels; we know it’s easier said than done. A healthy blood sugar is the key to your body’s immune system.
- 2. Avoid smoking, and all other tobacco products. We’re looking at you Vapes and chewing tobacco.
- 3. If you’re wearing dentures, be sure to clean them thoroughly each day.
- 4. Brush twice a day and don’t forget to floss!
- 5. Finally, see your dentists for regular check-ups. By visiting the dentist every six months you can kick infection and the possibility of infection in the butt.
With 1 in 5 cases of tooth loss linked to diabetes, this disease is not something to be taken lightly. November might be for turkey, mashed potatoes, and eating as much as you can, but make sure you leave room to consider diabetes and oral health.
Contact your dentist for more information.