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Diabetes is a disease that can affect the whole body, including your mouth. Dental care is particularly important for people with diabetes because they face a higher than normal risk of oral health problems due to poorly controlled blood sugars. The less controlled the blood sugar, the more likely oral health problems will arise. This is because uncontrolled diabetes impairs the function of white blood cells, which are the body’s main defence against bacterial infections that can occur in the mouth.
People with diabetes face a higher risk of:
Gum inflammation (Gingivitis and Periodontitis). Besides impairing white blood cells, another complication of diabetes is that it causes blood vessels to thicken, which slows the flow of nutrients to and waste products from body tissues, including the mouth. When this combination of events happens, the body’s ability to fight infections is reduced. Since periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, people with uncontrolled diabetes experience more frequent and more severe gum disease.
Poor healing of oral tissue. People with uncontrolled diabetes do not heal quickly after oral surgery or other dental procedures because blood flow to the treatment site can be impaired.
Thrush. People with diabetes who frequently take antibiotics to fight various infections are especially prone to developing a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue. The fungus thrives on the high levels of sugar in the saliva of people with uncontrolled diabetes.
Burning mouth/tongue. This condition is caused by the presence of thrush, diabetes itself, lack of certain vitamins or it has an idiopathic cause (not known reason).
Tooth Decay. High glucose levels in saliva help bacteria to thrive, repeatedly attacking teeth with cavity-forming acids. Brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily is vital.
Taste Impairment. A diminished sense of taste can influence food choices. Diabetics have reported that their perception of sweetness is lessened. As a result, selecting sweet tasting, refined carbohydrate foods put diabetics in greater risk for developing general health and dental problems.
Dry mouth. Uncontrolled diabetes can decrease saliva flow, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth can further lead to soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay. People with diabetes who smoke are at even higher risk (up to 20 times more likely than non-smokers) for the development of thrush and periodontal disease.
It is very important that a diabetic has a dental cleaning done every 3 months or even more frequently if necessary.