Living with diabetes can be difficult. Not only is fatigue and overall discomfort common, but diabetes can be life-threatening if not treated. While surprising to learn, diabetes can also affect your oral health. An estimated 29 million Americans are currently living with diabetes. Some people may not even realize they have this dangerous disease. Fortunately, help is available. With this guide, you will learn the signs and dental dangers of diabetes.
The 411 on Diabetes
First and foremost, you need to understand diabetes and how it affects your physical health. Basically, the condition reduces your body's ability to process sugar. Depending on the type of diabetes you have, your body's insulin levels will be out of balance.
With type 1 diabetes, your body will not produce enough insulin. In type 2 diabetes, your body will not respond to insulin. In both cases, you will experience high levels of blood sugar that affect your overall physical and emotional well-being.
Here are a few signs that you have diabetes:
- Increased urination
- Blurred vision
- Itchy skin
- Dry mouth
If you are experiencing one or more of the above signs, consult your doctor to test your blood sugar levels. Then, treatment for your diabetes will be discussed. It is important to remember that without treatment, diabetes may cause the loss of consciousness, mood disorders, and even cardiovascular issues.
Dental Dangers of Diabetes
The overall effects diabetes has on your physical health and wellness can be overwhelming, but the disease can also wreak havoc on your mouth, teeth, and gums.
Dry mouth is one of the most common symptoms patients with diabetes experience. This decrease in your mouth's production of saliva may not seem like a big problem, but it can lead to serious dental issues.
Dry mouth increases the risk of bacteria growth, which can cause infections, decay, and periodontal disease. Dry mouth can also lead to the development of thrush, which is a type of fungal infection inside the mouth. Patients with thrush develop uncomfortable white lesions on the tongue and inside of the mouth. It can also spread to the tonsils and throat, reducing your ability to swallow properly. Finally, if your mouth is constantly dry, you will most likely have chronic bad breath. Known as halitosis, chronic bad breath will affect your self-esteem.
Dry mouth is not the only cause of bacteria growth that leads to infection and gum disease. Without sufficient saliva, food particles and plaque will not be rinsed away efficiently. Even though you may brush as recommended, this food residue and plaque will build up on your teeth and gum tissue. Over time, the buildup will cause tooth discoloration, cavities, and redness or swelling of the gum tissue that can turn to gum disease.
Last, but definitely not least, diabetes reduces the function of your immune system. Without proper management of your diabetes, your body will not be able to fight off bacteria and infections. Healing even minor cuts, scrapes, and wounds can be difficult. Minor issues inside your mouth will not be able to heal as quickly as a patient who does not have diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will need to design a plan for treatment. Treatment may include diet and exercise in addition to medications or even insulin injections.
Your dentist can also help manage your diabetes, reducing any dental dangers you may experience. You should continue brushing and flossing as normal and visiting your dentist for routine cleanings and exams.
Most people are surprised to learn diabetes can affect the look and underlying health of your smile. With this guide, you will understand the disease and how it affects all areas of your physical, emotional, and oral health. Contact a dental office like the Couchman Center for Complete Dentistry for more information.